Coastal and marine ecosystems are under significant threat. Between 2-7% of the earth’s blue carbon sinks are lost annually, and if more action is not taken immediately to restore these vital ecosystems, most may be lost within 20 years.
The benefits of seagrass go far beyond blue carbon sequestration and storage capabilities. Seagrasses provide essential ecosystems services through buffering storm surges, filtering pollution, stabilizing the seafloor, providing protection from rising sea levels, supporting tourism and mitigating the effects of ocean acidification. As nurseries of the sea, healthy seagrass meadows support food security, and both commercial and recreational fishing. They are essential grazing grounds for endangered sea turtles, manatees and dugongs.
At The Ocean Foundation we understand the twofold value of seagrasses – carbon sinks and essential habitats. As such, we are currently working to restore a vast swath of seagrass habitat in Northern California – more specifically in the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Elkhorn Slough estuary has experienced intense anthropogenic stress over the last century, causing the ecosystem’s seagrass to be nearly driven to extinction. Working with University of California – Santa Cruz, we are investigating the ecological benefits of seagrass to the area.
This restoration program will conduct a thorough investigation on the drivers and conditions of a successful restoration and its ecological benefits – which include biodiversity, productivity, carbon sequestration and modulation of hypoxic (oxygen deprived) water. This project will use past seagrass transplantation techniques and modeling efforts to restore the seagrass population size back to its historical, pre-1930s levels. The goal is to increase coverage by 20% in efforts to connect and restore 7.4 acres of seagrass.
Why is this project so special? It is:
- The first to examine the efficacy of transplanting and seeding simultaneously to increase the success rate of restoration and create diverse populations
- The first to monitor environmental parameters holistically, in-situ that are important for eelgrass growth
- The first to monitor biodiversity as a result of eelgrass restoration in this region for both microfauna and macrofauna
Healthy seagrass meadows play a role in the everyday health of our coastal waters and are key in the development of sustainable human communities. We must defend these essential habitats!
Jessie Neumann, The Ocean Foundation