Tag Archive for eelgrass

Eelgrass, Part 2 – Status, Threats, and Restoration.

 

Map of the Salish Sea & Surrounding Basin, Western Washington University, 2009.
The southern part of the Salish Sea is Puget Sound while the northern part is The Strait of Georgia in British Columbia. There are no clear dividing lines except for political borders.

In Part 1, I made the case that eelgrass (Zostera marina) and other sea grasses are critical to local estuaries and near shore areas as well as to the health of the planet in terms of all of the myriad of ecological functions they serve. I also noted that they are among the world’s most threatened ecosystems. In part 2, I review the current status of eelgrasses, the numerous threats to their viability, and many conservation and restoration efforts currently underway both locally and worldwide. Most emphasis is on eelgrasses in Puget Sound and the Pacific northwest but most of what applies here is applicable elsewhere.

Seagrass coverage is being lost globally at a rate of 1.5 percent per year. That amounts to about 2 football fields of seagrass lost each hour. It’s estimated that 29 percent of seagrass meadows have died off in the past century.

 

Eelgrass Meadows, the Tidelands’ Global Nursery

 

Eelgrass Meadow along eastern shore of Bellingham Bay

This diary is about the wonders of eelgrass, one of the major components of near shore habitat that nurtures a myriad of sea critters. Additionally it provides many other functions in support of our sea life, our recreation, and it even contributes to reducing the CO2 problems in our oceans and atmosphere. There are other sea grasses and kelps that contribute as well, but I think that eelgrass is a star.

Eelgrass is a common name for a species of seagrasses.  I will focus on the salt water variety of Zostera marina and describe its vital ecological functions, its current status, and efforts to sustain it. This form of eelgrass is the most widely distributed aquatic flowering perennial in the northern hemisphere, growing largely in the cooler waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

World distribution of Zostera marina

I will in part highlight eelgrass in Puget Sound, the southernmost part of the Salish Sea which is the second largest estuary in the US (by volume). However, most of what applies to our local intertidal waters also applies to eelgrass beds and other seagrasses elsewhere in the Salish Sea, along the shores of Oregon and California, the western Atlantic Seaboard and near shore habitats globally.200px-World_map_ocean_genus-Zostera.jpg

This is the first of a two part post. In this first part, I describe the many gifts it gives us. In Part 2, I describe its current status, take a look at its threats and the efforts underway to preserve this valuable resource.

   

World distribution of Zostera marina