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Eelgrass Research and Restoration Program

Researching and restoring eelgrass, an ecologically significant marine plant.

First Of Its Kind Eelgrass Transplant

Eelgrass (Zostera spp.) is a marine flowering plant that forms “meadows” and is found in temperate regions throughout the world. The Bay Foundation (TBF) and project partners are working to restore eelgrass meadows while conducting research on the plant and its habitat. Eelgrass are economically and ecologically valuable marine habitats. They and other seagrasses provide a number of ecosystem benefits and services including:

  1. Nursery habitat for juvenile fishes
  2. Structure and foraging opportunities for a variety of commercially and recreationally important fish
  3. Carbon sequestration to help offset climate change
  4. Erosion reduction
  5. Improvements to water quality

Project Highlights

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Progress to Date

  • Biophysical characterization and mapping of extant Z. pacifica beds in the Southern California Bight (La Jolla, Santa Monica Bay, Catalina Island)
  • 306m2 of Z. pacifica transplanted in Santa Monica Bay as part of a novel method optimization pilot project
  • In partnership with PAUA and University of Southern California, perform annual monitoring of offshore Zostera spp. beds in the Southern California Bight.

Worldwide Declines Due to Human Impacts

Unfortunately, seagrass habitats have experienced staggering rates of loss worldwide due to local disturbances like burial or murky water. Climate change can make matters even worse with warmer water, bigger storms and acidic ocean waters further harming eelgrass and other seagrasses. The Bay Foundation supports efforts to reduce nutrients and pollution flowing into the Bay, and is collecting data on wave energy and temperature at many sites. Combined, these efforts will help us understand where and how we can reverse this global decline, locally in Santa Monica Bay.

Conserving and Restoring Seagrass Habitats

Eelgrass habitat restoration and conservation in California has been identified as a high priority by national, regional, and local agencies. Subtidal eelgrass beds exist throughout Southern California in shallow coastal wetlands, sheltered bays, rocky coastlines, and open coasts. In the Southern California Bight, two distinct species of eelgrass exist, Common eelgrass (Zostera marina) and Pacific eelgrass (Zostera pacifica). These eelgrass beds support important recreational and commercial fisheries such as kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) and California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus).

Applying Successful Restoration Methods to Open Coast Seagrass Beds

Past and ongoing restoration has focused primarily on common eelgrass in shallow bays and estuaries. TBF’s work, in conjunction with project partners, aims to develop restoration techniques, and fill research gaps on open coast eelgrass habitats. To this end, TBF has initiated an eelgrass restoration project in Santa Monica Bay, transplanting eelgrass to three distinct sites. The goal of this project is to enhance the subtidal habitat of the bay and develop effective open coast eelgrass transplant techniques. TBF and project partners continue to take vital data on open coast eelgrass beds in Southern California through annual monitoring.

Progress to Date

  • Biophysical characterization and mapping of extant Z. pacifica beds in the Southern California Bight (La Jolla, Santa Monica Bay, Catalina Island)
  • 306m2 of Z. pacifica transplanted in Santa Monica Bay as part of a novel method optimization pilot project
  • In partnership with PAUA and University of Southern California, perform annual monitoring of offshore Zostera spp. beds in the Southern California Bight.

Worldwide Declines Due to Human Impacts

Unfortunately, seagrass habitats have experienced staggering rates of loss worldwide due to local disturbances like burial or murky water. Climate change can make matters even worse with warmer water, bigger storms and acidic ocean waters further harming eelgrass and other seagrasses. The Bay Foundation supports efforts to reduce nutrients and pollution flowing into the Bay, and is collecting data on wave energy and temperature at many sites. Combined, these efforts will help us understand where and how we can reverse this global decline, locally in Santa Monica Bay.

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