We should appreciate our seagrasses! Don't wait until they are wiped out!
University of Delaware 11 Dec 06
New eelgrass growing techniques would help bays
Article by Tracey Bryant
full article on wildsingapore wildnews
Before disease decimated it years ago, eelgrass thrived around the globe in estuaries like Delaware's Inland Bays.
The sea-dwelling plant provides food and habitat for crabs, fish and waterfowl. It improves water quality by removing excess nutrients from the water and stabilizes the bay bottom as its long, ribbon-like leaves trap floating particles of sediment.
Environmental managers would like to get their hands on more eelgrass for bay restoration projects. But it's not as easy as going out and buying a bag of grass seed or a flat of plants at your local garden center. At least not yet.
“Eelgrass is a cold-water plant that was once widely distributed,” Gallagher said. “Then in the 1930s, there was a worldwide die-off of the plant due to wasting disease”.
This disease is thought to be caused by a slime mold that attacks the plant's leaves. The loss of the once-prolific eelgrass set off a chain reaction of serious impacts, including the starvation of large numbers of brant, a species of waterfowl that relies on the plant as a primary food source.
While eelgrass populations have rebounded in some locations over the years, restoration efforts have been essential to the plant's recovery elsewhere, particularly in areas that have undergone significant environmental degradation due to increased nutrient inputs, erosion and other stresses, Gallagher said.
However, the restoration process often is slow due to the scarcity of plant material. Currently, environmental managers must harvest seeds from eelgrass growing in the wild or dig up plants from healthy beds for transplant to new beds.
Currently, the UD research team is working on two methods for propagating eelgrass.