Eelgrass: A Habitat At Risk
Eelgrass (Zostera marina) forms extensive meadows in low intertidal and shallow subtidal areas of estuaries and embayments along the Northwest Atlantic coast. Eelgrass meadows are noted as critical habitat for many recreational and commercial fish species as well as small forage fish. For example, this photograph shows high densities of Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia) encountered in an eelgrass bed in Pleasant Bay, Massachusetts, at Cape Cod National Seashore. Eelgrass throughout the northeastern U.S. is threatened by water quality degradation, and increased water temperature from global climate change is predicted to exacerbate existing stresses and may lead to local eelgrass declines. USGS and NPS are collaborating on a project to predict how eelgrass distribution and abundance will likely change with expected temperature increases under climate-change scenarios.