Feb 25, 2009

Eelgrass researchers, regulators of NW Atlantic meeting.

The workshop Status, Trends, and Conservation of Eelgrass in Atlantic Canada and the Northeastern United States,was a two day event, February 24-25, at the Regency Hotel in Portland, Maine. Valet parking simplified the Portland parking challenge
Listen here to recordings of the day speakers

* Hilary Neckles of the Augusta, Maine office of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center started the workshop, going over the agenda and setting the issues facing eelgrass out in brief.

* Dr. Fred Short of the University of New Hampshire, held forth on "Eelgrass: the Big Picture", Lots of interesting facts emerged as Fred took us on a visit to eelgrass around our globe - it is there in the northern temperate zone - and declining around the world, too.

* Seth Barker, Maine DMR's GIS and habitat mapping expert, described Maine's eelgrass situation

Clink on the link for recordings of all of the day's speakers

From the discussions:

*Eelgrass is a flowering plant that aeons ago migrated from fresh to saltwater. In the Gulf of Maine it grows down to eleven meters deep.

*It can grow well in anoxic sediments, bringing oxygen down into its roots and discharging it into the mud, creating an oxygen-rich biological zone around the roots, called a "rhizosphere". Mats of roots can form, creating large rhizospheres.

* We have overused our coastal zone. Back in the good old days, nearshore eelgrass hosted flounder, lobster and cod in plenty. Sadly, very few cod nowadays are found in eelgrass. I.e. in shallow waters

Eelgrass wasting disease, the scourge of this plant in the early twentieth century, is now known to be attacks by the colonial slime amoeba Labyrinthula zosterae

The more nutrients in the shallow water, the more epiphytes or fouling organisms clutter the eelgrass' fronds, blocking sunlight from photosynthetic cells But at the same time the epiphytes provide food and shelter for myriads of other tiny organisms.

*Snowshoes are good for walking on eelgrass flats and mudflats without crushing the rhizospheres and without sinking deeply into them..

The Eelgrass Workshop Steering Committee - which has done a splendid job- consists of, Al Hanson of Environment Canada's Canadian Wildilfe Service, Phil Colarusso of U.S. EPA, and Robert Buchsbaum of Mass Audubon. Good work, people!

1 comment:

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