Eel­grass Dis­ap­pears in Morro Bay

Saltwater Sportsman - - Tod / Casts + Blasts -

The mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of eel­grass from the large tidal flats of Morro Bay, Cal­i­for­nia, has sci­en­tists baf­fled and prompted a new re­search col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­ves­ti­gate the rea­sons for the col­lapse and the po­ten­tial ad­verse ef­fects on lo­cal fish and wildlife.

Sci­en­tists as­sume wa­ter qual­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors con­trib­uted to the loss, but the ex­act cause re­mains un­known. To in­ves­ti­gate this mys­tery, a new re­search part­ner­ship — the Eel­grass Re­search and Mon­i­tor­ing Col­lab­o­ra­tive (ERMC) — has emerged. It in­cludes staff from NOAA Fish­eries, Cal­i­for­nia Sea Grant, MBNEP, Cal­i­for­nia Polytech­nic Univer­sity (Cal Poly) pro­fes­sors and stu­dents, and the Cal­i­for­nia Department of Fish and Wildlife, who are all look­ing into fac­tors such as dredg­ing, shore­line devel­op­ment, fresh­wa­ter in­flow, sed­i­men­ta­tion, dis­ease, over­graz­ing, and com­pe­ti­tion with macroal­gae to de­ter­mine the po­ten­tial causes of the eel­grass de­cline, with hopes that what they learn will lead to restora­tion ef­forts in Morro Bay and up and down the West Coast.

Morro Bay has long been known for its vast beds of na­tive eel­grass, which pro­vides one of the rich­est and most pro­duc­tive coastal habi­tats in the world, help­ing to pro­tect shore­lines, im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity, and sup­port­ing many in­ver­te­brate and fish species, like the threat­ened and en­dan­gered steel­head. While nat­u­ral cy­cles nor­mally drive in­creases and de­creases in eel­grass over time, Morro Bay’s has de­clined by 97 per­cent, crash­ing down from 344 acres in 2007 to just 13 acres by 2015.

“To solve a prob­lem of the mag­ni­tude of loss of eel­grass in Morro Bay will take a whole com­mu­nity. The col­lab­o­ra­tive group is bring­ing to­gether ex­per­tise and re­sources from all sec­tors be­cause we can­not sit by while a ma­jor state ecosys­tem col­lapses,” said Jen­nifer O’leary, a ma­rine ecol­o­gist with Cal­i­for­nia Sea Grant and fac­ulty at Cal Poly.

Over the next few months, the ERMC plans to re­lease some pre­lim­i­nary find­ings and pub­lished ar­ti­cles that shed new light on this puzzle and help launch a strate­gic restora­tion ef­fort to re­vive Morro Bay eel­grass and the vast ecosys­tem it sup­ports.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.