underwater photo of eelgrass meadow with juveline cod
Eelgrass meadows play a key role in the functioning of the ecosystem. For example, they provide nurseries for several important fish species such as cod and eels, and increase biodiversity many times compared to a soft bottom without eel grass.
Photo: Jonas Thormar

Research on eelgrass receives SEK 14 million from Formas


The research group Zorro has received SEK 14 million from Formas to develop and introduce new tools for the restoration and long-term protection of eelgrass meadows. The purpose of Formas's call is to increase knowledge about the connection between climate, water, and biological diversity.

Congratulations! What is the project about?

“The project aims to develop and introduce new tools for the restoration and protection of coastal habitats, using eelgrass meadows in Sweden as a model system. Among other things, we will map the distribution of eelgrass in Sweden to find the meadows that are most in need of restoration, and we will identify genotypes of eelgrass that are resistant to climate change, but we will also evaluate restoration methods for eelgrass,” says Per-Olav Moksnes, senior lecturer in marine ecology and coordinator in the research group Zorro.
“Among the more interesting methods we will evaluate, is a large-scale restoration in Malmö, where an old industrial harbour of 8 hectares has just been restored by covering the toxic bottom and increasing the bottom depth, which enables a natural re-establishment of eelgrass, so-called ‘rewilding’,” says Per-Olav Moksnes.

Two researchers in wet suit
Per-Olav Moksnes and Marlene Jahnke from the Zorro research group, which received SEK 14 million from Formas.
Photo: Lars-Ove Loo

Why is this important?

“Several habitats for animals and plants have disappeared along the coast due to increased human impact, and this has accelerated in recent decades due to climate change. An example of a coastal habitat that is threatened today is eelgrass meadows. Eelgrass is the most common seagrass species in the Northern Hemisphere, and eelgrass meadows play a key role in the functioning of the ecosystem.”

“There are several international calls to restore ecosystems. However, progress has been slow for coastal marine ecosystems due to the lack of effective restoration methods and long-term funding,” says Per-Olav Moksnes.

What do you hope to achieve?

“The long-term goals are that the restoration and protection of eelgrass should be able to increase in scope through new methods and financing models. Eelgrass meadows can provide increased biological diversity, clearer water, and reduced climate impact. We also hope that the project will be able to constitute a model that can be transferred to other systems in the sea and on land,” says Per-Olav Moksnes.

Facts about the project

Project title

“Scaling up eelgrass restoration for coastal biodiversity: A framework for climate-adaptive management”

Granted funds

SEK 14 million for a 4-year period (2023 – 2027), with the possibility of an extension for another 4 years and a similar amount for the next 4-year period. Only 10 projects were approved and Zorro is the only one from the University of Gothenburg.

Research project group

Behind the project is the interdisciplinary research group Zorro at the University of Gothenburg. The project team includes marine ecologists Per-Olav Moksnes, Marlene Jahnke, Lousie Eriander, Department of Marine Sciences, and Eduardo Infantes, Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences; environmental lawyer Lena Gipperth, Department of Law; and environmental economist Elina Lampi, Department of Economics.

More information

More about the research group Zorro on Zorro's web page.

More information about the call on Formas's web site.