Posted May 25, 2023
Ah yes, eelgrass… those long, green, and ribbon-like leaves, which most find annoying as they venture out in the waters of the Wareham seashores. Yet this plant is vital to the health and wellbeing of those same bodies of water. The monitoring of eelgrass is an indicator of water quality, and it is a keystone species in our estuarine ecosystem.
Eel Grass provides/serves 5 critical roles for fish, invertebrates, waterfowl and sea turtles:
1. Food Source
3. Habitat/Living Space
4. Sediment Stabilization
5. Photosynthesis production
In other coastal communities it has been a source for human consumption – eaten fresh or dried, and used for smoking meat, filling mattresses and roof thatching! While I cannot recommend eelgrass salads (having never tried one), improving the health and abundance of eelgrass improves the overall health of the bay and the 11 rivers which empty into that same bay. Eelgrass stores greenhouse gases, reduces shoreline erosion while filtering pollutant run off and it produces food and oxygen.
If we want to enjoy beautiful, productive and a healthy seashore, we must provide protection for eelgrass. They go hand in hand. This can be achieved by monitoring and limiting light obstructions (i.e., shading), limiting introduction of chemicals which transfer into the food chain, limiting physical disturbances and any action which hinders tidal action all which cause eelgrass and seed damage. We need to balance our need for development and recreation with our need for healthy productive seashores.
Written by Denise A. Schulz, Wareham Land Trust Member