Seagrass is an important feature of temperate and tropical coastal ecosystems.
In New England, healthy eelgrass beds are an important habitat for fish and other creatures (providing food and shelter), improve water quality (taking up nutrients), and protect against storm damage. Recent research indicates that eelgrass also stores carbon, and thus can serve to mitigate climate change.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen significant declines in eelgrass over the past 30 years. For many years, the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program (MassBays) has been supporting efforts to map eelgrass, establish its role in carbon sequestration, and restore eelgrass beds that are disappearing. One way to protect existing eelgrass is to use “conservation moorings” to secure boats in coastal mooring fields. Traditional moorings – a large cement block dropped to the bottom, with a long chain to the boat – cause scouring of the bottom that rips eelgrass up by the roots, producing visible scars in existing beds.
Several conservation mooring systems are currently on the market, but their designs present problems that mean boat owners are hesitating to make the leap to the new system. Tricky installation, fouling that causes even elastic “chains” to drag the bottom, and concerns about holding capacity remain. We need help in addressing those problems, so we can continue to promote seagrass protection and restoration not only in Massachusetts, but in other coastal settings as well.