In these watery meadows, the combination of fresh and salt water, sediment, light and living things interact to form highly productive ecosystems1. Eelgrass beds provide breeding and feeding grounds for invertebrates, fish, seabirds and mammals2. It is estimated that over 80 percent of commercial fish and shellfish species depend on eelgrass habitat at some point in their lifecycle3. Eelgrass beds also assist in coastal protection by supplying a physical barrier and reducing erosion3.
In the battle against climate change, eelgrass beds are highly efficient at storing carbon2. In fact, marine plants like eelgrass are actually more effective at storing carbon then their terrestrial counterparts (i.e. forests). This “blue carbon” is buried in sediments and is thought to be stable for thousands of years2. An oil spill may cause serious damage to eelgrass communities, especially in sheltered bays where oil would likely be retained for long periods of time4.
Data Source: The eelgrass bioband shows areas of the coastline where eelgrass has been observed. These coastline segments are part of the Province of British Columbia’s shore zone mapping system and are based on aerial surveys of the coast. Eelgrass is found coast wide but only the eelgrass within the map study area on the North and Central Coast of British Columbia is displayed here.