HOME

NEWS

CHARITIES

VOLUNTEER

ACTION CENTER

ADD CHARITY

CONTACT

SUPPORT

World Environment Community Health Animals Celebrity Submit A Site Find A Charity
Eelgrass restoration aids overall recovery of coastal bays

By David Malmquist, William and Mary News

1583 days ago   Article ID# 1467342
Original URL

 

Nature Conservancy

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA (William and Mary News) - The reintroduction of eelgrass into Virginia’s coastal bays -- a collaborative effort among the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the University of Virginia, and The Nature Conservancy -- is one of the great success stories in the annals of marine restoration.

This week, a special theme section of the leading journal Marine Ecology Progress Series features 9 articles that describe the 15-year restoration process and explain how the resulting “state change” from bare seafloor sediments to lush eelgrass meadows has led to a healthier and more vibrant ecosystem overall. A final article, however, cautions that the restored meadows are vulnerable to global warming.

Eelgrass—one of several local species of submerged flowering plants—flourished in the seaside bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore until the 1930s, when a wasting disease and the passage of a large hurricane wiped them out. When eelgrass disappeared, so too did the food and nursery habitat that they had provided to numerous marine organisms and seabirds. One notable loss was the bay scallop—which until that time had supported a significant commercial fishery.

Professor Robert “JJ” Orth—co-editor of the theme section and head of the seagrass restoration and monitoring program at VIMS—notes that two factors have combined to make Virginia’s coastal bays an ideal spot for restoring eelgrass and studying the resulting ecosystem changes.

First, the bays are part of the Virginia Coast Reserve. Managed by The Nature Conservancy, the reserve has been under intensive study since 1987 as a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site administered by the University of Virginia. That’s important, says Orth, because “Ongoing baseline studies by LTER scientists in the absence of eelgrass set the stage for understanding the subsequent ecological benefits of restoring eelgrass as a dominant species.”

Second, the reserve’s relatively pristine waters are a major reason for the success of the eelgrass restoration effort. “These bays are unique in that they receive little impact from human activities,” says Orth. “Data from the LTER show that they receive low levels of nutrient pollution from the surrounding watershed, and that water quality and clarity has remained high over the last two decades.” Clear water is key for transmitting the sunlight that seagrasses need to thrive.

Coastal Bays vs. Chesapeake Bay

VIMS professor Ken Moore and colleagues contribute to the theme section with a comparative study that expands on the link between water quality and eelgrass abundance. Their results show that the increased abundance of eelgrass in the pristine waters of the coastal bays is countered by decreased or static abundance in nearby areas of lower Chesapeake Bay where waters are less clear and warmer during the summer.

Moore says “Our data show that a combination of factors in the coastal bays—including cooler summertime water temperatures and lower light attenuation—interact to both increase the proportion of light available for eelgrass photosynthesis, and to decrease the amount of light the plants need to meet their metabolic requirements through photosynthesis.”

Ecosystem services

Other papers in the theme section report on studies led by Karen McGlathery and Matthew Reidenbach of the University of Virginia. These show that restoration of eelgrass to the coastal bays has led to recovery of key “ecosystem services,” including increased capture of solar energy and subsequent transfer up the food chain, greater removal of polluting nutrients, and more trapping of suspended sediments. The latter leads to clearer water, which in turn further stimulates eelgrass growth.

Overall, these studies reveal that the increase in ecosystem services shows no sign of leveling off— even after nine years of eelgrass recovery—thereby suggesting that full restoration has not yet been reached. This optimistic finding is tempered by a modeling study led by UVA’s Joel Carr, which indicates that the eelgrass meadows “have limited resilience to increases in water temperature predicted from current climate change models.” That conclusion is bolstered by Moore’s field-based study, which shows that eelgrasses are already stressed in Chesapeake Bay by recent summertime heat waves.

Restoration history

Orth and his team began planting eelgrass seeds and shoots into Virginia’s coastal bays in 1997, a year after hearing an anecdotal report of a small eelgrass patch in South Bay. From 1999 through 2010, VIMS and UVA staff and Nature Conservancy volunteers have collected and broadcast 37.8 million eelgrass seeds across 309 acres in 4 coastal bays. Those plantings have now expanded through natural re-seeding into 4,200 acres of lush eelgrass meadow.

Copyright 2016 William and Mary News   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1583 days ago   Article ID# 1467342

Nature Conservancy    View Charity Profile    Visit Website

More Nature Conservancy News

GPS tagging could save hawksbill sea turtle

7 days ago From news.asiaone.com 

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - ...

Aviation and shipping firms edge towards pledging emissions cuts

80 days ago From newscientist.com 

LONDON, U K - ...

With reefs under threat, Philippines plants coral colonies

115 days ago From voanews.com 

WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - ...

Recovery of Island foxes a ‘historic success’; officials recommend removing them from endangered species list

126 days ago From news.mongabay.com 

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - ...

As climate change hits the Caribbean, partners collaborate to boost resilience and rejuvenate coasts

168 days ago From worldbank.org 

WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - ...

Go to page:   1    2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  Next >> 

<< Return To Environment News

Action Center

Climate change to kill thousands of New Yorkers yearly by 2080

Action: Climate Change

Around 60 years from now, scientists said that around 3,000 New Yorkers could die each year due to intense heat brought about ...

Help save Yellowstone's iconic grizzly bears!

Action: Wildlife Conservation

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is preparing to strip Yellowstone's grizzly bears of their critical Endangered Species Act p ...

South Sudan forest cover shrinks by 1.5 per cent annually

Action: Stop Deforestation

South Sudan’s forests, currently covering 33 percent of its total land area, shrink by 1.5 percent annually due to logging an ...

Demand clean air in our National Parks

Action: Stop Pollution

The Obama Administration recently proposed updates to the Regional Haze Rule, a Clean Air Act program intended to reduce air ...

Tell the Feds: ban imports of fish stunned with cyanide

Action: Save Our Oceans

The tropical fish trade has a deadly secret. Each year up to 90 percent of the 12.5 million tropical fish entering the United ...

View All Actions >>

 

 

Charities

News

Follow Us

Support

Find A Charity

Action Center

World

Community

Facebook

Twitter Support

Contact

Volunteer

Add A Site

Environment

Animals

Google+

Privacy Policy

Copyright

 

 

Health

Celebrity

Terms of Service

Copyright © The Charity Vault All rights reserved.