Written by Riley Seaborn
Hello! I am Riley Seaborn, a rising sophomore at CHS, working with the CSCR Eelgrass team. As you may know, we have experienced a massive decline in eelgrass plants. Our biggest question this summer is why? What happened to cause this rapid decline in eelgrass? As CSCR researchers we have discussed this heavily and have come up with several theories about this strange disappearance. These theories still need to be researched more but here is what we generally brainstormed.
- Animals like green crabs could have affected this shortage. Many of us have been curious about this theory. Research has shown that the green crab population has grown exponentially since 2020. Biologists describe how this growth is an immense danger to the ecosystem. These green crabs uproot and damage eelgrass searching for food in the sediment. The overpopulation of this invasive species has slowed down plans of eelgrass restoration.
- Seagrass wasting disease is a disease that kills off healthy eelgrass. This disease starts by turning eelgrass leaves black until later in time when all leaves are black and dead. Research has shown that seagrass wasting disease thrives in warm temperatures. Therefore, because of climate change progressing, the wasting disease could have spread faster than ever and wiped out a massive amount of the eelgrass population.
- Large seaweed patches have been suggested to “outcompete” seagrasses. With the rising global temperature due to global warming, seaweed beds have accelerated in growth and wiped out smaller eelgrass beds. Within our last few expeditions, we have noticed massive overgrowths of seaweed. Infact, there is so much seaweed that it blocks our go pros, impairing our sight and observations of eelgrass.
Personally, I think that the answer to this big question is a combination of each one of these theories. This drastic change is very rare and I believe there are many factors to this mystery. What do you think caused this shortage? Let us know! We would be very interested to hear your thoughts.