Seagrass Protection

This project aims to document biodiversity in British Columbian seagrass meadows and evaluate its role as a driver of ecosystem function such as fish and seabird productivity spillover. Field surveys and field and lab experiments will assess seagrass-associated faunal diversity, its relationship to ocean conditions associated with changing the climate (temperature, salinity, turbidity and pH), and its dependence on landscape structure and seagrass fragmentation.

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Globally, seagrass habitat decline exceeds that in rainforests and coral reefs. Seagrass meadows host vast biodiversity of invertebrates, fishes and birds, providing food and shelter for these organisms and supporting a much wider marine ecosystem. One main objective is to understand how seagrass meadows support biodiversity in the context of the landscape – other meadows, and their distance from each other. One aspect of landscape structure is human impacts, and we will sample seagrass communities along human impact gradients. Using our experimental approaches, we will test whether these human impacts are associated with changes in seagrass communities, and look for biological indicators of seagrass community health in the context of human activities. This work will integrate theory and experiments to understand: a) how ocean temperature affects ecosystem function, and the structure, function, and diversity of seagrass-associated food webs, and b) how landscape structure and habitat fragmentation define movement and biodiversity in seagrass food webs. Working with project 1.2.2, this study will help establish minimum habitat needs for seagrass ecosystem protection, and the potential for seagrass community growth and movement in response to climate change.


Project Deliverables / Achievements

  • A map of seagrass meadows in British Columbia is completed.

  • Identification of possible indicator species and their interactions, and a model of the timing of arrival and disappearance of indicator species (fish, grazers, epiphytes) in seagrass meadow is in progress.

  • The sampling of biodiversity and human activities in seagrass meadow and lab processing of field biodiversity samples are completed.

  • Quantification of the spatial scale of variability in seagrass-associated biodiversity and analysis of this variation along a human-impact gradient in Barkley Sound is ongoing.

  • Collecting eelgrass biodiversity samples (invertebrates, seagrass, algae and sediments) is ongoing.

  • Analysis of indicators and metrics of eelgrass-associated biodiversity are ongoing.

  • Map potential changes in connectivity for a set of habitat loss and restoration scenarios in the Salish Sea is in progress.

  • Develop metrics of eelgrass impact and human activities on eelgrass, both for BC and in a joint framework for the east, and west coasts of Canada is in progress.

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British Columbia