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Studland MCZ and VNAZ

Published 00:00 on 22 Jun 2022

Studland MCZ and VNAZ

Alongside the forthcoming Voluntary No Anchor Zone in Studland Bay, there is to be proper mapping and reporting on the condition and extent of the seagrass in Studland Bay. Below is a recent press release by Dorset Coast Forum on behalf of the Studland Bay Marine Partnership.

Southampton University Press Release 16 May 2022:

A team of researchers from the University of Southampton have embarked on an exciting new project with organisations from the Studland Bay Marine Partnership including the National Trust and supported by the Dorset Coast Forum (DCF) to assess the extent and health of the seagrass beds in the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone, as part of the Southampton Geospatial Initiative and Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute Research Collaboration Stimulus Fund.

Seagrass meadows play a vital role in supporting the ecosystem near Studland Bay. They form a habitat for diverse fish species including sea bass, sea bream, and the iconic Spiny Seahorse and may also play an important role in reducing the impact of coastal erosion within the bay. Seagrasses reduce the energy of waves and tidal currents and trap nutrients and particles of sand that would otherwise get washed away. Even their roots help bind the sediment together making it harder to erode. All these effects contribute to improving the resilience of the sandy beaches of Studland Bay, which attract over 1.5 million visitors each year. In addition to local benefits, seagrasses are also highly effective at capturing and storing carbon within the sediment. Despite occupying less than 0.2% of the world's seafloor, they account for 10% of all the carbon that gets buried in ocean sediments and so are a major asset for mitigating climate change. However, seagrasses are also one of the world's most threatened ecosystems.

Promoting the health and preventing damage to seagrass meadows is an ecologically friendly, nature-based solution for coastal management. The Studland Bay Marine Partnership involves conservation organisations, boat users and local community groups working together to help protect the seagrass by installing 'eco-moorings' within Studland Bay. These are designed to reduce boat anchor damage and so allow the seagrasses and local biodiversity to thrive whilst maintaining the vibrant sailing and recreational activities within the bay. Ten eco-moorings have been deployed so far, with support from Boatfolk and the Seahorse Trust, with plans to eventually install 100 eco-moorings.

The team from the University of Southampton brings together experts from the Schools of Ocean and Earth Science, Geography and Environmental Science and the In Situ and Remote Intelligent Sensing (IRIS) Centre of Excellence. The scientists and engineers will conduct a series of surveys over the summer using state-of-the art monitoring technologies, such as camera equipped robotic submersibles and autonomous boats to map the seagrass and monitor their recovery from past anchor damage. By building a comprehensive picture of the bay and its subtidal habitats, the scientists will be able to better advise on the implementation of nature-based solutions at Studland and identify safe, unvegetated access routes for vessels.

Contact point: Dorset Coast Forum Dorset Coast Forum An independent strategic coastal partnership

Photo showing a Sparus II autonomous underwater vehicle, similar to the one that will be used in this project, being deployed during the GRASSMAP campaign in the Balearic Islands by researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of the Balearic Islands

Photo showing the PicoCAT autonomous surface vehicle which will be used to map the bathymetry and seagrass extent within Studland Bay. (Credit: University of Southampton).

About the Southampton University Team

Dr Hachem Kassem

Hachem is a Lecturer in Ocean Engineering in the School of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton. His research spans a range of coastal and shallow marine processes, exploring drivers and impacts of coastal change and informing the design of adaptive, nature-based solutions to promote coastal resilience, and ensure sustainable provision of energy and resources.

Professor Blair Thornton

Blair is a Professor of Marine Autonomy within Engineering and Physical Sciences and a Co-Director of the In situ and Remote Intelligent Sensing Centre of Excellence (IRIS) at the University of Southampton. His research develops methods for robotic seafloor survey through improved sensing and autonomy.

Dr Ken Collins

Ken is an Emeritus Fellow within Ocean and Earth Science. He specialises in coastal ecology, including habitat mapping as well as the development of artificial reefs for fishery and oyster enhancement. Ken has extensive experience in scientific diving, and his work covers seagrass, calcareous algae and biogenic reefs, lobster and shark movement and invasive marine species in the Galapagos.

Dr Julian Leyland

Julian is an Associate Professor of Physical Geography and director of the Environmental Sensing @Southamton facility (ES@S; Julian's research interests centre on understanding how geomorphic systems respond to environmental change, using process-form monitoring, modelling and remote sensing approaches.

Dr Charlie Thompson

Charlie is a Lecturer in Coastal Processes and director of the Channel Coastal Observatory, which leads the National Network of Regional Coastal Monitoring Programmes of England. She is interested in transdisciplinary research which involves the coasts, sediments or both, with a particular focus on applied and policy driven research.

Dr Miguel F Massot-Campos

Miguel is a Senior Research Fellow within Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton. He currently works on underwater robotics, seafloor mapping and imaging techniques for a better understanding of our oceans.

Ms Bronwyn Walker-Rouse

Bronwyn is a 3rd Year Marine Biology with Oceanography MSci Student. Bronwyn is interested in seagrass ecology and ecosystem services and how these can be enhanced with conservation efforts to provide natural solutions to issues such as erosion. Bronwyn's master's project will assess the impact of eco-moorings on seagrass, as an alternative to chain moorings and anchoring, which have been found negatively effect seagrass and result in fragmentation.

Dominique Townsend:

Dominique is a PhD student applying rapid survey tools to study nearshore processes in Pevensey Bay, East Sussex. She has extensive experience in the collection, analysis and quality assurance of topographic beach data and the use of autonomous surface vessels to survey seabed morphology.

About the Studland Bay Marine Partnership

Meeting regularly in Studland, the Studland Bay Marine Partnership has a wide and varied organisational membership, including:

Natural England

National Trust

Southampton University

The Seahorse Trust


Planet Purbeck

Royal Yachting Association (RYA)


Dorset Coast Forum

Studland Parish Council

Poole Harbour Commissioners

Dorset Wildlife Trust

Link to Update in members section

Last updated 13:23 on 22 June 2022

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