Underwater gardeners in Denmark plant eelgrass to save ‘dead’ fjord

Published June 13, 2024
An underwater photograph shows a volunteer diver planting an eelgrass at a fjord in Denmark.—AFP
An underwater photograph shows a volunteer diver planting an eelgrass at a fjord in Denmark.—AFP

VEJLE: Under a white tent on the shores of a polluted Danish fjord, volunteers and researchers prepare slender green shoots of eelgrass to be planted on the seabed to help restore the site’s damaged ecosystem.

Denmark generally has a strong track record on environmental issues, but only five of its 109 coastal zones are considered healthy, according to the Danish Environmental Agency.

Like other coastal areas in Denmark, the Vejle fjord is suffering from eutrophication — a process in which nutrients, often from land run-off, accumulate in a body of water and lead to increased growth of microorganisms and algae.

The algae cover water surfaces, blocking light and cutting off oxygen, killing plants and wildlife. An underwater surveillance camera installed in the Vejle fjord by the municipality last year detected just one fish in 70 hours.

In Denmark, a major pork producer, more than 60 per cent of the country’s land is used for agriculture — one of the highest concentrations in the world — sparking frequent warnings in recent years about the risk of run-off.

A 2022 report by the University of Southern Denmark (USD) concluded the 22-kilometre Vejle fjord was in “poor environmental condition” because of high levels of nitrogen run-off from fertiliser use on farms. And when the mercury rises, so does the problem.

“We had a very warm summer in 2023, and that resulted in a huge oxygen depletion,” a biologist who works for Vejle municipality, Mads Fjeldsoe Christensen, said.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2024

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