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Research Document - 2011/095

Responses of Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) to Stress

By H. Vandermeulen, J. Surette, and M. Skinner


A literature review was performed which included examining approximately 200 publications (most from the primary literature). Those publications fitting our criteria (primarily field studies of adequate duration) were used to describe the responses of eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) to stress from five factors. Sedimentation, turbidity, nutrients, water flow regime and physical removal all have the ability to reduce the fish habitat value of eelgrass by increasing meadow patchiness, reducing shoot density or reducing area covered.

The 'HADDFootnote 1' model, used by habitat practitioners applying the Fisheries Act, has terms such as stressor intensity, duration, area scale and frequency - which are difficult to find applied in the scientific literature on eelgrass. As a result, we suggest threshold intensities of the five stressors rather than set absolute values. There is a need to monitor the application of our thresholds and modify them as new data are collated from case studies.

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