Seagrass Beds - Habitat Action Plan

Ref 1/H8 Habitat Action Plan 8
Plan Author: Environment Agency
Plan Co-ordinator: Environment Agency
Final Draft 31 December 1998
Under Review December 2000


Action Plan Summary

Current Status

National Status

  • Three species of eelgrass (Zostera) occur in the UK. These are : Z. noltii, the dwarf eelgrass, which is found highest on the shore: Z. angustifolia, the narrow leaved eelgrass, which is found on the mid to lower shore and eelgrass, Z. marina, which is predominantly sub littoral. All three species are considered to be scarce. Preferred habitats are intertidal or shallow subtidal sands/muds which are sheltered from significant wave action. Eelgrass beds are an important food source for a number of bird species including brent goose and wigeon. Plants can also be colonised by a range of micro and macroalgal species. In certain areas the habitat is an important nursery area for flatfish 

Norfolk Status

  • The only location where eelgrass beds are known to exist in Norfolk is off Brancaster, covering an area of 0.25km2 ; Wells covering an area of 0.5km2 ; Blakeney, covering an area of 0.1km2 (All in Old Hunstanton to Sheringham Maritime Natural Area); and Breydon Water, unquantified extent (Broads Natural Area)

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Current factors affecting the habitat in Norfolk

  • Zostera habitats are limited to intertidal sites throughout the action plan area. 
  • It is likely that the turbid nature of the estuarine water precludes any subtidal distributions. 
  • Compared to other parts of the UK, East Anglian estuaries generally receive enhanced nutrient loadings from the freshwater catchments. Recent research has shown that this does not always cause an environmental problem. However, where suitable solid substrates exist blanketing growths of Enteromorpha can occur. Such growths could potentially impact the Zostera bed in Norfolk 

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Current Action in Norfolk

The Zostera population in the plan was mapped by the MNCR survey teams during 1992 and 1993 

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Action Plan Objectives and Targets


  • Maintain extent and distribution of eelgrass in UK waters.
  • Assess feasibility of restoration of damaged or degraded eelgrass beds. 


  • Maintain and where possible enhance eelgrass beds in Norfolk. 

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