ALICE ASHCROFT: Our watery wonderland

Fundraising will protect Solent sealife like this harbour seal                                                                    Picture Chas Spradbury
Fundraising will protect Solent sealife like this harbour seal Picture Chas Spradbury

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The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust officer looks at the treasures of the Solent and how you can join a fundraising drive to save them – but there are only 48 hours left to donate.

It is a common misconception that our local sea is devoid of life.

It’s opaque and often grey surface hides the magic that lies beneath all too well, meaning that it often goes unappreciated.

The Solent is home to some wonderful underwater seascapes – seagrass meadows, chalk reefs and rocky sponge gardens carpet the seabed, supporting a spectacular array of marine life.

Seahorses, seals, sea bass, colourful anemones, sea squirts and cuttlefish feed and take refuge in these watery wonderlands, creating areas of incredible vibrancy that appear almost exotic to the untrained eye.

These aquatic treasures are not just beautiful and valuable in their own right, they are extremely important for the human population.

Our underwater seagrass meadows are the rainforests of the oceans, producing about 67.5 million litres of oxygen per day.

Each and every life-form supported by our precious underwater habitats contributes to a complex and often fragile ecosystem which must be carefully monitored and managed if we are to continue using the Solent as we do.

This strip of sea is one of the busiest in the UK and is enjoyed by millions of people every year.

People come here to sail, surf, canoe, fish, kayak, paddleboard and swim.

The Solent also supports important fisheries, supplying restaurants and consumers with fresh local mackerel, sea bass and cockles.

Our seas are under real pressure and marine wildlife has declined rapidly in recent years.

This year we have seen waves of plastic washed up on our beaches, and emergency measures have been taken to save our once-thriving oyster industry.

We want to reverse this trend and keep the Solent wild and wonderful, but we need your help!

We have midnight on Thursday to raise the funds needed to kick start our Secrets of the Solent project.

Every £1 we raise gives us the chance to unlock an extra £10 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

That will allow us to work with local people and partners to keep the Solent special.

If you would like to help, you can donate via our crowdfunder crowdfunder.co.uk/wildandwonderful.