A new bill to protect marine and coastal areas around the UK should become law this year.
The Marine and Coastal Access Bill is welcomed by many organisations, especially environmental groups, who have campaigned for many years for better protection of Britain’s marine environment.
The bill is currently going through its last stages in the House of Lords and House of Commons.
Half the UK’s biodiversity lives in the sea and the new bill will put in place systems to give better protection and management of these important ecosystems.
The UK has one of the world’s richest marine environments and an especially diverse seaweed flora, made up of red, green and brown algae. There are a staggering 650 seaweed species in the UK, which represent around 7% of the world’s species.
Cover of Important Plant Areas for Algae report
Natural History Museum scientist, Professor Juliet Brodie, studies seaweeds and other algae (seaweeds are marine algae). Working with colleagues she identified the top UK sites for algae in a Plantlife report, Important Plant Areas, published in the summer of 2008.
Important sites like these can help the authorities to decide where the proposed Marine Conservation Zones are located once the bill becomes law. For example, Professor Brodie and her team identified 9 seaweed sites as internationally important in the Plantlife report and 55 sites as being important nationally.
Many UK sites need more data collecting and one of them is Blue Anchor Bay in Somerset along the Bristol Channel. Its red, green and brown algae were last surveyed in the 1970s and so Professor Brodie and her colleagues are collecting data to produce an up-to-date survey.
The Somerset coast and other areas along the Severn estuary have the 2nd highest tidal range in the world. Today, the UK government announced the shortlist of 5 proposals to harness renewable energy from the tide in the estuary, making it all the more important to understand the biodiversity of these areas.