Conservationists have been encouraged by the reappearance of spiny seahorses at Studland Bay off the Dorset coast.
A group of 16 of these amazing and much-loved creatures were recently spotted, including pregnant males and a juvenile.
It might not sound like much, but it was the largest sighting of seahorses in the area since 2008 and the first time they have been seen in two years.
The tiny seahorses are just the latest in a wide range of animals worldwide which appear to have been benefiting from what has been a quieter planet for the last few months as many industries have shut down or run at decreased capacity during the lockdowns which have been implemented in order to try and stem the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if there has actually been a real increase in populations of species, or whether it’s rather a case of humans being more in tune to their environment as life has tended to slow down for many people.
SEAHORSES NEED SEAGRASS
It’s also however important to understand just how much of a knock-on effect human actions can have on the environment. In this case with the seahorses, it could well be the decrease in activities such as boating, fishing and diving which has allowed the creatures’ natural environment, including the seagrass which they need to sustain themselves, to thrive.
“We have seen so many seahorses because the food chain has recovered, giving seahorses plenty of food to eat, and crucially, somewhere to hide,” said Neil Garrick-Maidment, founder of the Seahorse Trust.
“The seagrass has started to repair itself, and the spiny seahorses have taken advantage of this.”
Now, as coronavirus restrictions are lifted and human activity starts returning to its previous levels, the concern is that fragile ecosystems such as the one these Dorset seahorses live in, could again come under threat.
The UK’s two native seahorse species, the spiny and the short snouted, have been given protected status since 2008 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The Studland Bay area was declared a Marine Conservation Zone in May 2019
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Image credit: Nhobgood