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The Decline of Seagrass Meadows

Zostera! Eelgrass, Zostera marina, is a flowering, marine vascular plant that remains submerged all the time. This is quite a feat for vascular flowering plants, and only a few dozen species world wide are capable of growing completely submerged in a marine environment. Eelgrass creates and extremely important habitat, its upright structures and complex root system create a 3-D living space for many different types of animals. It is (or was) the dominant habitat forming SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) throughout much of the coastal waters in the northeastern United States. Unfortunately, for various reasons, eelgrass meadows have seen drastic declines, and in many locations eelgrass only exists in a mosaic of small patches. This is extremely bad news as many of the important, and formerly important, commercial and recreational fisheries of the northeast US are dependent on Zostera at some part of their life cycle as a nursery and foraging ground. Some of the species are finfish like tautog, bluefish, fluke, winter flounder, porgies, while others are shellfish such as blue mussels, hard clams, oysters, bay scallops, and blue crabs. Many of the aforementioned species support or once supported vibrant fisheries. Many of those fisheries have collapsed, also for various reasons. However, is it possible there is a link between the crash of the fisheries, the decline of Zostera and the failure for recovery on both ends?

Bay Scallop on Eelgrass

Argopecten on Zostera! Bay Scallops, Argopecten irradians , have developed a very close relationship with eelgrass, Zostera marina. As larvae, they are passively transported, and tend to settle in eelgrass meadows when the current is dampened by the 3D structure of the seagrass. This same 3D structure provides post-set juvenile scallops a spatial refuge from predation. Even as larger juveniles and adults, scallops are capable of, and have been shown to, actively select eelgrass habitats.

Other species also use eelgrass

grass shrimp A number of other species utilize eelgrass as a habitat. Included are grass shrimp, like the Palaemonetes pugio, other decapods such as blue crabs, bivalves such as hard clams, gastropods (snails), and numerous fish species, including winter flounder, tautog and cod.

Ah, the return of the LINK DUMP!

I don’t like doing this often, because I would rather add my own content than just send you elsewhere.  But some of this stuff is just TOO GOOD! Plus it gives me an opportunity to show some of my photos.  So I guess this type of entry isn’t all bad. Btw, I took these photos while on a dive trip to Fiji. Enjoy!

Wonder about “gay” ibis? Just travel to south Florida!

Tommy Lee is in PETA now? And he is concerned about whale masturbation. Seriously. They do this. And SeaWolrd responds.

Hannah over at Sleeping with the Fishes is an incredible writer (I wish I had her abilities!).  Read about clownfish, anemones, zooxanthellae, and the symbiosis that binds them.

Amphipod males like to cuddle! Which benefits the females too!

Dives to the Gulf seafloor near the spill turn up life.

Chuck at Ya Like Dags talks about his faves, DOGFISH!

Dusty at Uncharted Atolls tells us why we should worry about nature. Agreed!

The Bitter End always finds interesting things!

4 comments to Ah, the return of the LINK DUMP!

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