DV-08-018 Status, Trends, and Conservation of Eelgrass in the Northeast

Hilary Neckles
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
196 Whitten Road
Augusta, ME 04330
207-622-8205 ext.119

Eelgrass (Zostera marina L) is the dominant seagrass occurring in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, where it often forms extensive meadows in coastal and estuarine areas. Eelgrass beds are extremely productive and provide many valuable ecological functions and ecosystem services. They serve as critical feeding and nursery habitat for a wide variety of commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish and as feeding areas for waterfowl and other waterbirds. Eelgrass detritus is also transported considerable distances to fuel offshore food webs. In addition, eelgrass beds stabilize bottom sediments, dampen wave energy, absorb nutrients from surrounding waters, and retain carbon through burial.

Documented declines in the distribution and abundance of eelgrass in both the United States and Canada have resulted in considerable interest in the status, trends, and conservation of this important marine resource on a regional scale. To encourage broad sharing of information on eelgrass, a workshop was convened under the auspices of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment – Habitat Monitoring Subcommittee on February 24-25, 2009, in Portland, Maine.

Invited presentations and discussions highlighted status and trends in eelgrass distribution and abundance, factors controlling ecosystem change, current management issues, and regional examples of eelgrass conservation efforts. Hosts included Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Friends of Casco Bay, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, and Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership. Additional sponsors include James W. Sewall Co., Maine Coastal Program, and US Geological Survey.

Neckles, H.A., A.R. Hanson, P. Colarusso, R.N. Buchsbaum, and F.T. Short (eds.). 2009. Status, Trends, and Conservation of Eelgrass in Atlantic Canada and the Northeastern United States. Report of a Workshop Held February 24-25, 2009, Portland, Maine. (PDF, 499 KB)

Total: $500