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Eelgrass for healthy ecosystems

Climate change impacts our marine ecosystems and fisheries. Find out how eelgrass provides the habitat productivity needed for thriving fish communities on the Atlantic coast.


Eelgrass is fundamental to the ecosystem services.

It provides carbon, oxygen, food supply for fish, coastal stabilization and provides protection for juvenile fish.

It can be used to predict the number of fish that are coming up through future generations and age groups, and even past when they leave eelgrass beds.

It's important to realize that Atlantic cod, specifically, will only use an eelgrass bed for the first year of their life.

But what goes on in that first year is very, very important.

The fish coming out of that environment become very easy numerically to link to the numbers of adults that are occurring later, and we already know that the more eelgrass you have, the more productive your fishery is going to be.

One of the best ways to demonstrate how important a habitat feature like eelgrass is, is to actually temporarily remove it.

The effect on the fish community in those areas that now recovered was quite dramatic and we lost over 90% of the fish that were in that area.

Presence of eelgrass has a very dominating influence on the number of fish and how fast they grow, and how many of them are produced.

The world is actually losing about the equivalent of a hectare a day of eelgrass.

The rate of loss is about the equivalent of the loss of rainforest in the Amazon, and yet we're all concerned about that.

We're currently investigating the extent to which climate change will influence eelgrass growth. Eelgrass is likely to shift north.

Here in Newfoundland, we're in the northern margin of where eelgrass can grow as it is. So, we're expecting this is what's partially causing the growth of eelgrass in our area to pick-up.

It will move north as well. The problem is that: if it's good here, it can be very bad somewhere else.

Climate change by itself will favour some species over others. Eelgrass in Newfoundland is going to be a winner. Eelgrass in Nova Scotia may be a loser as the climate continues to warm over time.

Eelgrass is part of that environment and we should be protecting it as much as we can given its importance to the ecosystem.

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