Engineering firm paving the way for future habitat development options in Bahrain

By P.Lindgren (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By P.Lindgren (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

International engineering consulting firm ByrneLooby has been commissioned to undertake a pilot study which could lead to the restoration of seagrass in certain areas of Bahrain’s marine environment.

The ByrneLooby office in Bahrain are undergoing a pilot study to relocate seagrass in order to enhance existing habitats with the overall aim of increasing marine life within an area of reclamation. If successful, the project could be the start of much larger scaled operations providing many developers across the Kingdom of Bahrain with a tangible option for environmental compensatory measures. While the replantation of seagrass has been attempted elsewhere in the Middle East, it is understood to be a first in Bahrain.

Seagrass beds are considered as being one of the most important primary producers (on both land and in the sea) in the region, contributing directly and indirectly to marine productivity and supporting a wide diversity of animals. As flowering plants, seagrasses also contribute to O2 production and CO2 reduction through photosynthesis and their contribution to the reduction in greenhouse gasses is vital. Seagrasses are also important in terms of coastal defences. The grass beds consolidate the offshore sediments allowing them to build up and deflect the force of incoming waves, thus reducing the impact on the coastline and coastal structures and increasing the stability of coastal features such as beaches for example.

The pilot study was carried out by the ByrneLooby environment team in March 2016 after they were commissioned by Diyar Al Muharraq, a leading developer committed to preserving the coastal environmental heritage of Bahrain, to explore habitat enhancement options within the development as part of their overall social and environmental responsibilities.

“If the study proves successful, it would provide other developers in Bahrain with a good opportunity to relocate seagrass habitats that occur in areas where future reclamation is planned,”

explains Lauren van der Merwe, Principal Environmental Specialist with ByrneLooby.

“Our Client, Diyar Al Muharraq has developed a large scale reclamation in North West Bahrain and are interested in looking at ways to give back to the environment. We are therefore exploring a number of options but considered developing the option of seagrass translocation because large areas of the reclamation were constructed on seagrass habitats”,

Van der Merwe said.

ByrneLooby collected approximately 40 m² of dense seagrass from a ‘donor site’ and transported it to three areas within the Diyar Al Muharraq development. The seagrass was then planted in areas exhibiting similar features (i.e. depth, substrate type) but with very sparse to no seagrass present. The translocation has been undertaken on a small scale in order to test the viability of the project in Bahrain. ByrneLooby will be monitoring the growth progress over the coming months in order to assess the success of the project for future environmental compensation opportunities and to find the best locations for long-term transplanting programmes.

If the results are successful, Ms van der Merwe says the environmental team at ByrneLooby will look at doing the relocation on a much larger scale.

“I’m feeling confident. There was already limited seagrass in two out of the three sites at the donor locations and the seabed characterises were similar, however we’ll need to closely monitor the areas over the hotter summer months”.

Van der Merwe added.

“I’ve really enjoyed working on the project so far. I’ve learned a lot and if this study is a success, it’s a really good, tangible environmental compensation option that could prove extremely beneficial for future developments in Bahrain.”