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What is eelgrass?

Eelgrass is a saltwater flowering plant. Like plants and seaweeds, eelgrass photosynthesizes contributing oxygen to the air we breathe. It is among the most productive marine habitats and is important in numerous ways.


What is stewardship?

Stewardship means taking care of something. This project is about taking care of eelgrass.


Why is eelgrass important?

Eelgrass provides habitat for numerous invertebrates such as crabs, sea stars, clams, snails, anenomes, and tiny crustaceans. There are two times as many species present in an eelgrass bed than on bare sand! Many fish spend a portion of their life cycle in eelgrass meadows. These include juvenile salmon, adult herring, pipe fish, stickleback and many more. Eelgrass meadows are important spawning grounds for herring, who in turn are prey for adult salmon.

 

Phyllaplysia taylori on eelgrass (photo by Terra McMullen)

Threats to Eelgrass

Almost eighty percent of the world’s population lives on the ocean. As a result, most people live in areas where eelgrass thrives, in calm bays and estuaries. Agriculture, forestry, and dredging for commercial and residential development have all lead to the loss of eelgrass meadows. In addition, boat activity and shellfish harvesting can destroy eelgrass. Docks create shade,

Pollution poses a great threat to eelgrass survival.
Human activity has lead to declines in seagrasses (including eelgrass) around the world. Documented losses have occurred in Chesapeake Bay, US, in the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic coast of Europe. Just south of the B.C. coast, in Puget Sound, eelgrass beds have declined by a staggering 70 percent.

Eelgrass can be a water quality indicator - which is useful in areas with high pollution.

Wasting disease, caused by the slime mold Labyrinthula sp., has been shown to cause devastating effects on eelgrass beds.

 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  • Eelgrass is a very delicate plant so avoid stomping over the plants as much as possible when walking in an eelgrass bed.
  • If you're in a boat and in an eelgrass bed, turn off your motor if possible to avoid chopping up he blades of the plant.
  • Do not pollute the beaches and water.
  • Make other people in your area aware of eelgrass as a critical habitat!

email:eelgrass@bms.bc.ca

Eelgrass Links:

Puget Sound Shorelines Eelgrass Page

Port Townsend Marine Science Center Eelgrass Page

Seagrass Conservation Working Group

Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society


sponsors:

       


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