Eelgrass in Maine is now closed to new submissions. To share what you’re seeing in the natural world, you can now create an account at CEHL’s new collaborative nature journal, Anecdata!
Scientists, interns, and volunteers at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) have been successfully restoring eelgrass in Frenchman Bay with community partners for six years. But this year, the marine plant didn’t come up, and not just in restored areas. Eelgrass throughout the upper bay didn’t seem to get its annual signal to send up shoots, and only rhizomes remain in the mud where eelgrass beds had been.
In order to find out the extent of this event along the coast of Maine, MDIBL is asking the public to look for eelgrass beds and report their locations, or where they missing from places where there had been beds in the past. The lab is asking people to search for the plant as soon as possible, because eelgrass’s growing season usually ends in August. Continue reading
“Seagrasses in Classes” is an academic year education program in five Mount Desert Island region elementary, and two inland high schools. The program is a school-year extension of the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory’s efforts to restore and study eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds in northern Frenchman Bay. Eelgrass is a native seagrass that grows underwater in thick beds just below low tide in sheltered coastal areas and in river estuaries. Eelgrass is an essential component of the coastal marine ecosystem. It offers protection to small fish and shellfish and buffers the ocean from intrusions of sediment and pollution. Scientists and interns affiliated with MDIBL’s Community Environmental Health Laboratory have established a restoration site near Hadley Point in Bar Harbor, and are studying the efficacy of different methods of eelgrass replanting, the broadcast of eelgrass seeds by currents, and the population genetics of eelgrass communities.
The Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) hosted a meeting and dinner for mussel harvesters from the Maine Mussel Harvester Association on January 31, 2013 at Gordon’s Wharf in Sullivan, ME. The gathering had a dual purpose: to appreciate the mussel harvesters for their collaboration on eelgrass restoration projects in the past, and to garner their input on proposed eelgrass restoration areas for the future. The mussel harvesters who attended either drag for “wild mussels” or they harvest “seed mussels” for aquaculture lease sites in Frenchman Bay. “The group here represents one hundred percent of bottom-dredge mussel processors in Maine,” said Ralph Smith, of Moosabec Mussels, “you’ve got Eastern Maine Mussels, Acadia Aqua Farms, Moosabec Mussels, and Atlantic Shellfish.”
Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) is working to restore eelgrass habitat that serves as essential nursery areas for commercially important marine species in the Gulf of Maine. Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is a unique flowering plant, formerly occurring in widespread meadows in sub-tidal areas along many coastlines in the Northern Hemisphere. As one of the primary photosynthetic producers, and as nursery habitat for many species, it plays a crucial role in the ecology of the Gulf of Maine. In Frenchman Bay, eelgrass has recently experienced significant declines, possibly related to dragging for mussels and other sessile species.
At Hadley Point in upper Frenchman Bay, the bottom coverage was estimated at 60 – 80% cover in 1996, declining to <0.5% by 2007. Over the last four summers, MDIBL has worked in partnership with multiple community groups to restore eelgrass at Hadley Point. Efforts to date have had demonstrable success. The coverage in the restoration reserve has increased from a low of 0.5% in 2007 to approximately 15% in 2011. Moreover, while 74 square meters of eelgrass had been transplanted over the past 5 summers, a recent census revealed 3500 square meters of coverage, nearly a 48-fold increase. In addition, new eelgrass beds have developed in nearby areas of the bay. Current tracking data suggest that seed is travelling from the restoration area to new eelgrass sites around the bay. Juvenile mussels are the predominant marine organism inhabiting eelgrass blades in the restoration area during the summer months. Future plans include optimizing eelgrass restoration methods and expanding eelgrass restoration efforts around Frenchman Bay with funding from Constellation Energy.