Eelgrass

Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) is an aquatic flowering plant common in tidelands and shallow waters along much of Puget Sound’s shoreline. It is widely recognized for its important ecological functions, and provides habitat for many Puget Sound species such as herring, crab, shrimp, shellfish, waterfowl, and salmonids.

Source: Puget Sound Science Review.

Eelgrass bed. Photo: NOAA

OVERVIEW

Eelgrass

Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) is an aquatic flowering plant common in tidelands and shallow waters along much of Puget Sound’s shoreline. It is widely recognized for its important ecological functions, and provides habitat for many Puget Sound species such as herring, crab, shrimp, shellfish, waterfowl, and salmonids.

RELATED ARTICLES

An eelgrass bed near Bainbridge Island, Washington. David Ayers/USGS
1/6/2017

Eelgrass in Puget Sound is stable overall, but some local beaches suffering

Eelgrass, a marine plant crucial to the success of migrating juvenile salmon and spawning Pacific herring, is stable and flourishing in Puget Sound, despite a doubling of the region’s human population and significant shoreline development over the past several decades. [Story reprinted from UW Today.]

report cover: Synthesis of 2011-2014 results and key recommendations for future recovery efforts: Final analysis report
12/6/2016

Puget Sound marine and nearshore grant program results, final analysis report

A September 2016 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute provides an overview of key products, results, and recommendations presented in three previous reports reviewing 50 projects from the first four years of the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Grant Program.

Report cover
4/22/2015

Status and trends for seagrasses in Puget Sound from 2010-2013

A 2015 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources summarizes the status and trends for native eelgrass and other seagrasses in Puget Sound from 2010-2013.

A great blue heron catching a fish in an estuary. Photo courtesy of NOAA
3/11/2015

Top–down control by great blue herons regulates seagrass-associated epifauna

A 2015 paper in Oikos Journal examines the impacts of great blue heron predation on species diversity in eelgrass meadows in British Columbia. 

Olympia oysters. Photo: VIUDeepBay (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/viucsr/5778358466
12/11/2014

Gifts from the sea: shellfish as an ecosystem service

The shellfish industry is a cornerstone of the Puget Sound economy, but the region's famed mollusks provide more than just money and jobs. They offer what are called ecosystem services—a wide variety of benefits that humans derive from an ecosystem.

Z. japonica at Padilla Bay in Puget Sound. Photo by Jeff Rice.
11/24/2014

Ecological effect of a nonnative seagrass spreading in the Northeast Pacific: A review of Zostera japonica

A 2014 literature review in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management suggests negative effects of nonnative eelgrass on the native species. 

Inside the Eelgrass beds. Photo: Eric Heupel (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/eclectic-echoes/7654885752
8/8/2014

Shedding new light on eelgrass recovery

Scientists say eelgrass, an unassuming flowering plant found just off shore in Puget Sound, is vital to the health of the ecosystem. They also say the plant is declining. New and increasingly urgent efforts to restore it brought a group of researchers to the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.

Eelgrass in Dumas Bay, Central Puget Sound 2013. Photo courtesy of DNR.
5/6/2014

Nitrogen as an Eelgrass Stressor in Puget Sound

Although overall eelgrass abundance appears to be stable in Puget Sound, some local areas are showing declines. A 2014 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources looks at the potential impact of increased nitrogen on eelgrass health.   

Kelp crab on eelgrass. Photo courtesy NOAA Photo Library
3/10/2014

Host demography influences the prevalence and severity of eelgrass wasting disease

A paper in the February 2014 journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms examines the effect of leaf age on wasting disease in eelgrass across sites in the San Juan Archipelago. Co-author: Encyclopedia of Puget Sound topic editor Joe Gaydos. 

Closeup of herring spawn on kelp.
6/27/2013

Field notes: Are Puget Sound herring limited by loss of eelgrass?

Could recent declines in Puget Sound herring be linked to decreases in native eelgrass? Biologist Tessa Francis reports on a new study that may provide insight into the health of one of the region's most iconic forage fish.