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Feb. 23: Restoring Native Eelgrass with Seeds in the San Juans

  • Written by Gay Wilmerding

Seventy-two species of marine flowering plants, commonly known as seagrass, grow in temperate and tropical coastlines across the globe. Often overlooked or under-appreciated, these submerged plants provide critical habitat for invertebrates, fish, birds and some mammals. Their canopy provides shelter for youngsters and spawning ground for some forage fish. As the nursery thrives, its progeny feed recreational and commercial fish like salmon on which orcas depend. And in turn, tourism with its economic benefits.

During the past half century, seagrass prairies have declined. Friday Harbor Laboratories and the San Juan Islands Conservation District are seeking ever innovative means to reseed around our islands. After flowering and pollination, hand collection of Zostera marina, native eelgrass, allows developing seeds to reach maturity during storage. Later, distribution of seeds restores marine habitat near shore. Fibrous roots stabilize the seabed and serve as a carbon sink, like tropical forests, to mitigate effects of a changing climate.

With DNR's goal to conserve and restore 10,000 acres of kelp and eelgrass beds by 2040, the exciting new seed-injection methods pioneered in the Netherlands will be explored at Bell Point, Westcott Bay, in April 2023.

Please join FHL Research Scientist Sandy Wyllie-Echeverria and WWU Master's student Yuki Wilmerding to learn more at 7 pm on Thursday, February 23, in the Meeting Room of the San Juan Island Library.


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