Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a marine plant that grows in the shallow coastal waters of Massachusetts. Eelgrass is an important nursery habitat for a variety of marine fisheries species. To track changes in eelgrass, DMF maps eelgrass throughout the state and participates in SeagrassNet, an international seagrass monitoring network. Also, the eelgrass team at DMF successfully restored tens of acres of eelgrass, the most eelgrass restoration in Massachusetts. DMF provides expertise and leadership in issues pertaining to eelgrass.
Focus areas include:
- Long-term monitoring of eelgrass
- Eelgrass mapping
- Eelgrass restoration
- Conservation moorings
Additional Resources for Overview
Long-term monitoring of eelgrass
SeagrassNet is a global seagrass monitoring program. DMF participates in SeagrassNet for its monitoring activities. The monitoring site in Salem Sound is the 45th SeagrassNet site worldwide. Data for the site is collected through quarterly sampling, which establishes a baseline. There are three transects at the Salem Sound station, at shallow, mid, and deep depths.
At these transects, data is collected on:
- Plant characteristics
- Percent cover
- Canopy height
- Distance to bed edge
- Environmental data
- Light level
- Sediment grain size
This data is important because it helps DMF to understand the health of eelgrass habitats and better respond to proposed coastal alteration projects.
Additional Resources for Long-term monitoring of eelgrass
DMF uses depth finders and sidescan sonar to map eelgrass in survey areas throughout the state. We look at how much the eelgrass changes from year to year to determine if losses or gains in eelgrass are long lasting.
Additional Resources for Eelgrass mapping
DMF restored eelgrass to Salem Sound to repair the scar from the HubLine pipeline installation.
DMF also restored eelgrass to Boston Harbor from 2004-2007. A second phase of restoration started in 2010 and expanded in 2012 to cover other areas in the Harbor Islands.
Additional Resources for Eelgrass restoration
Conservation mooring projects
Eelgrass has been declining in Massachusetts for many reasons. One big reason is mooring of boats. The traditional block and chain mooring causes scarring of the eelgrass beds as the chain drags along the substrate. Seagrass friendly moorings are available but are rarely used in Massachsuetts. DMF partnered with The Massachusetts Bays Program NEP. The goal is to test new seagrass friendly moorings and see if the eelgrass grows back.
Additional Resources for Conservation mooring projects
Standard Operating Procedures
- The Burlap Disc Method: planting and monitoring eelgrass (Zostera marina)
- Using the TERFS (Transplanting Eelgrass Remotely with Frames System) methods to plant eelgrass (Zostera marina)
- The Horizontal Rhizome Method: planting and monitoring eelgrass (Zostera marina)
- Monitoring eelgrass (Zostera marina) in a reference bed
- Monitoring eelgrass (Zostera marina) at SeagrassNet site Salem Sound MS 45.1
For more information regarding eelgrass, contact Tay Evans.
Phone: (978) 282-0308 x 168