Proposed Abstract Title

Long term monitoring of eelgrass, water and weather patterns in Padilla Bay, WA.

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

The Role of Eelgrass Ecosystems in the Salish Sea

Location

2016SSEC

Description

The importance of eelgrass in nearshore ecosystem function and as an indicator of ecosystem health led to the establishment of a long-term monitoring program focused on tracking annual growth and distribution of eelgrass species (Z. marina and Z. japonica) in Padilla Bay, WA. This annual monitoring program was established in 2011 and consists of 126 permanent plots along three 4 km transects.

Eelgrass exhibits a complex response to environmental conditions driven primarily by temperature, light, and nutrients. Optimum growth requirements differ between Z. marina and Z. japonica, with the latter responding positively to warmer water temperatures and possessing an increased tolerance to high temperature extremes (Kaldy et al. 2015). Using long-term monitoring data from Padilla Bay, we investigated factors (i.e. temperature, light availability, water depth) that may help to explain patterns in eelgrass growth and performance. During the study period, we measured a two degree (°C) increase in mean water temperature, an increase in mean surface light (PAR millimoles/m2) and a decrease in mean water depth. Eelgrass measurements over the same time period reveal that the density and biomass of Z. japonica has dramatically increased, while Z. marina density and biomass have fluctuated over time with the lowest observed values in 2015.

These data suggest that the predicted increase in local temperature and sea level as a result of climate change may favor expansion of Z. japonica density and distribution, particularly in the upper and mid intertidal. This highlights the importance of evaluating the ecosystem services associated with Z. japonica, and how these compare to Z. marina and other nearshore habitats.

Comments

Keywords:

Eelgrass, Seagrass, Zostera, marina, japonica, Monitoring, Padilla Bay

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Long term monitoring of eelgrass, water and weather patterns in Padilla Bay, WA.

2016SSEC

The importance of eelgrass in nearshore ecosystem function and as an indicator of ecosystem health led to the establishment of a long-term monitoring program focused on tracking annual growth and distribution of eelgrass species (Z. marina and Z. japonica) in Padilla Bay, WA. This annual monitoring program was established in 2011 and consists of 126 permanent plots along three 4 km transects.

Eelgrass exhibits a complex response to environmental conditions driven primarily by temperature, light, and nutrients. Optimum growth requirements differ between Z. marina and Z. japonica, with the latter responding positively to warmer water temperatures and possessing an increased tolerance to high temperature extremes (Kaldy et al. 2015). Using long-term monitoring data from Padilla Bay, we investigated factors (i.e. temperature, light availability, water depth) that may help to explain patterns in eelgrass growth and performance. During the study period, we measured a two degree (°C) increase in mean water temperature, an increase in mean surface light (PAR millimoles/m2) and a decrease in mean water depth. Eelgrass measurements over the same time period reveal that the density and biomass of Z. japonica has dramatically increased, while Z. marina density and biomass have fluctuated over time with the lowest observed values in 2015.

These data suggest that the predicted increase in local temperature and sea level as a result of climate change may favor expansion of Z. japonica density and distribution, particularly in the upper and mid intertidal. This highlights the importance of evaluating the ecosystem services associated with Z. japonica, and how these compare to Z. marina and other nearshore habitats.