Eelgrass: transplants and restoration for critical habitat
Fiona Beaty, Regional Coordinator, Salish Sea Nearshore Habitat Recovery Project, SeaChange Marine Conservation Society
Reviewer: Cynthia Durance, Precision Identification
Excerpt from 2020 article
Selecting eelgrass (Zostera marina) restoration sites requires understanding the history of sediment, water quality and eelgrass distribution in bays and estuaries, as well as past, current and future human use patterns and potential climate change impacts. Experts rely upon a combination of spatial datasets (e.g., maps of eelgrass distribution, suitable spawning habitat for forage fish, sea-level rise vulnerability), and local and traditional ecological knowledge to inform their decision-making.
Read the full article to see what else is happening.
Background: A hermit crab on an eelgrass blade. (Credit: Coastal Photography Studio)
What’s been done since 2017?
The table below reports on progress made on recommended actions from the previous 2017 article, where identified. Many of these require ongoing action.
|2017 Action||Action Taken|
|Individual and Organization Actions|
|Participate in eelgrass restoration activities and encourage your organization to participate.||Since 2017, seven eelgrass transplants have occurred throughout Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound.|
|Join or contribute to funding eelgrass restoration efforts. Eelgrass habitat needs to be monitored and mapped every three to five years to evaluate changes over time.||In 2019, the Marine Reference Guide (MRG) mapped eelgrass distribution for the Sound’s mainland.|
|Government Action and Policy|
|Continue to financially support community eelgrass restoration and monitoring practices within Howe Sound. Ensure monitoring and mapping is occurring every three to five years and updated data is made widely available.||In 2017, SeaChange Marine Conservation Society was awarded funding through the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s Oceans Protection Plan to conduct eelgrass restoration. This funding is now in its third of five years and has four focal regions: Átl’ḵa7tsem/Txwnéwu7ts/Howe Sound, səl̓ilw̓ət/ Burrard Inlet, Sechelt Inlet, and the Gulf Islands.|
What can you do?
A detailed overview of recommended actions relating to climate change is included in The path to zero carbon municipalities. In some cases, no progress was identified on previous recommended actions; these remain listed below. Additional actions marked as NEW also follow.
- Protect eelgrass by learning where eelgrass beds are located.
- Familiarize yourself with Howe Sound islands’ eelgrass mapping initiatives.
- Shoreline landowners can minimize the impact of docks by using light-penetrating materials and using shared community docks rather than private docks.
- Shoreline owners can maintain trees, shrubs and ground cover plants close to the shore to reduce erosion and detrimental sedimentation.
- Avoid boating or anchoring in eelgrass beds.
- NEW Use the howesoundconservation.ca map to find eelgrass distribution in the Sound.
- NEW Anchor and install mooring buoys deeper than 7 m to reduce the likelihood of scouring the seafloor and ripping out eelgrass shoots.
- NEW Use mid-line floats in mooring buoys to reduce damage to benthic sediments.
- NEW Encourage environmentally friendly marine dumping and sewage treatment infrastructure.
Government Actions and Policy:
- Support and facilitate community education and stewardship involving the importance of eelgrass, the threats eelgrass faces, and how coastal citizens can help.
- Consider relocating log boom tenures or reducing size and restoring eelgrass beds.
- Prohibit shoreline armouring near eelgrass.
- Create protected zones for eelgrass areas identified as important. Within these areas; restrict removal of backshore native plants, encourage a “no anchor zone,” restrict the installation of non-light-penetrating docks, and restrict the implementation of new logging operations.
- Allow no new tenures in eelgrass habitat or habitat suitable for eelgrass restoration.
- NEW Learn from local governments who have obtained jurisdiction over the foreshore using Licence of Occupations (Bowen Island Municipality), Recreational Water Leases (Town of Gibsons), or Head Leases (District of West Vancouver) to manage water use and remove problem vessels and subtidal debris.