Posted: Sep 26, 2012 5:49 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News
Updated: Sep 27, 2012 6:26 AM
Just last week, scientists and volunteers put into action a plan to stop the massive disappearance of eelgrass in Morro Bay.
The underwater plant provides spawning areas for fish and food for migrating birds.
But it's estimated that fewer than one hundred acres of eelgrass remains in Morro Bay. That's an eighty percent reduction since the 1970s.
A group of scientists, engineers and volunteers devised a plan to supplement the hardest hit areas by replanting healthy eelgrass from more lush areas found in Morro Bay.
"It's a very significant drop," says Annie Gillespie of Morro Bay National Estuary. Gillespie has been studying eelgrass in Morro Bay since 2005.
"You talk about natural cycles and this just seemed beyond the scale of what would naturally happen," says Gillespie.
So Morro Bay conservationists, scientists and volunteers dove into action.
"While the declines in the back bay south of the natural history museum have seen really severe declines," says Gillespie. "In the front bay it hasn't been as serious."
With the assistance of Merkle and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, divers hit the water for a one-of-a-kind plan.
"What we did is harvest from an area thats thriving, bundle it up and transplant it to the back bay," says Gillespie.
In the end, more than 8,000 eelgrass plants were moved from Coleman Beach near the mouth of the bay to areas of the suffering back bay.
"From there, we will work closely with our partners to monitor these transites and the areas we planted," says Gillespie. "We have a very strong interest in seeing which areas will support eelgrass re-growth and which areas will not."
Officials say possible causes for the eelgrass decline include sedimentation and algae blooms, both of which reduce water clarity and hamper growth.
Intense tidal surges over a three-day period caused by the March 2011 Japanese tsunami may have also contributed to some of the losses.
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