Modelling Habitat Suitability for Common Eelgrass (Zostera marina) around the Isle of Skye.
Seagrass meadows, which provide valuable ecosystem services and are vital as stores of blue carbon, are known to be in decline worldwide. Alongside the reduction of pollution, seagrass restoration is vital to help restore their former distribution, and so maximise their ability to store carbon. In the British Isles, Western Scotland has historically been a stronghold of common eelgrass (Zostera marina), and so is an ideal region to consider for seagrass restoration. In order to select optimal sites, two habitat suitability models (HSMs) were generated for the waters surrounding the Isle of Skye: a Generalised Linear Model, and a Maximum Entropy model. The requisite variable selection was conducted using Akaike’s Information Criterion corrected for small samples (AICC) within R. For both models, the most important variables were Exposure, Depth, and Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR). The MaxEnt model was then found to be more accurate, having a True Skill Statistic (TSS) of 0.71 compared to the GLM’s 0.63. Nine significant sites were identified for future surveying and potential restoration, with the largest three being Loch Brachadale, Upper Loch Carron, and Loch Kishorn respectively.