Welcome to SeagrassSoundings Blog

Welcome to SeagrassSoundings Blog

SeagrassSoundings focuses on the work that scientists and managers are doing to protect, preserve, study, restore and monitor seagrass in Massachusetts and throughout New England.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Aerial photos reveal boat mooring impacts to seagrass meadows in West Falmouth Harbor

This week I enjoyed a breathtaking flight over Buzzards Bay thanks to a LightHawk donated flight http://lighthawk.org/ flown by pilot David Murphy.  I was focused on West Falmouth Harbor to take aerial photos of the impact of boat moorings on seagrass meadows, as part of a project funded by the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership.  The photos below show the striking mooring scars in the eelgrass bed.  Propeller and rudder scars are also evident. 

MarineFisheries received a grant in 2012 from the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership to continue studying the impact of conventional moorings (anchor and chain) on seagrass meadows, and to test the utility of a new innovative mooring design referred to here as a "conservation mooring".  Previously, we tested conservation moorings installed in Manchester-by-the-Sea and we continue to monitor the mooring scars and measure changes at that location.  The new funding enables us to expand the project to a harbor on the Cape and test the concept in a different system.

Conventional moorings have heavy chain that drags along the bottom, stirring up sediment and ripping out seagrass.  Conservation moorings use floating, flexible line that does not contact the bottom and a helical anchor driven into the sediment for maximum holding power with minimal footprint.  These systems may minimize scouring of the seafloor and reduce impacts to seagrass and water quality. 
A) Conventional Mooring with chain drag; B) Conservation mooring and eelgrass
Left: helical anchor; Middle: Hazelett flex rode; Right: Ecomoorings flex rode
Dave Merrill installing a helix mooring anchor in W. Falmouth
With grant funding, 8 conventional moorings were voluntarily converted at no cost to the owner, to a conservation mooring.  Such conservation moorings have been in use locally for several years already in Marion, Chatham, Tisbury (Vineyard Haven), and Lake Tashmoo, with good reviews from boat owners and harbormasters.  There are several designs and brands of conservation mooring.  Eco-Mooring by BoatMoorings.com, a New England based company, and Hazelett Systems, were chosen for comparison in West Falmouth Harbor.  Dave Merrill of BoatMoorings.com worked together with the local mooring maintainers in West Falmouth to install all 8 moorings in May 2013.

These photos will be our "before" conditions.  Stay tuned in the coming years to see how this seagrass meadow changes.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Restoration in Boston Harbor: Volunteer Event at New England Aquarium

On the unseasonably chilly morning of August 27th, Wes and Jill hit the water early to harvest 4,000 eelgrass shoots from a small cove in Nahant Harbor. The bed looked great: tall, thick and dense with abundant reproductive shoots. When enough plants were harvested, divers stored them in covered totes and steamed by boat to the New England Aquarium’s education building, where 19 volunteers from the Live Blue Ambassador’s program were ready to “get their weave on”.

Jill and Wes kicked off the event with a presentation about the ecology and importance of eelgrass, the work carried out by MarineFisheries eelgrass team, and a quick training session. Volunteers would be using the Burlap Disc (BD) method developed by Chris Pickerell (Cornell Cooperative Extension) to weave 10 shoots into each planting unit.

Volunteers huddled around 6 table-top stations containing shallow totes filled with saltwater. Keeping the plants wet at all times, they tirelessly weaved the eelgrass onto discs (provided by C. Pickerell) which were then placed in a central tote to be skewered and quality controlled by Kate.

Volunteer event in the NEAq Harborside Learning Lab
LBA Participants weaving grass
Kate and Wes skewer and QC the discs
 Previously, we used outdoor venues for volunteer events – so we are grateful that NEAq helped us keep ourselves and the eelgrass out of the direct sun.

Over the course of 2½ hours, the 19 volunteers weaved 390 discs (3900 plants), weaving at a rate of about 8½ discs per person per hour. If our typical 3-person field team tried to weave all this, it would take about 15 hours!

LBA's weaving
Tay helps weave at one of the stations
NEAq's Lucy Indge (background) helps one of the volunteers work through a huge pile of plants
At the end of the event, the finished discs were taken to the Winthrop Harbormaster’s pier and soaked in lobster cars overnight. The team planted the discs over the following 2 days, totaling six 5m x 5m plots at Governor’s Island Flats, with a total expansion area of ¼ acre. We look forward to monitoring the plots in the coming weeks.

For a video file of the presentation, or details about our methods, contact the eelgrass project staff.

Our special thanks to:

Lucy Indge and education staff at the New England Aquarium, Chris Pickerell and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, NEAq Live Blue Ambassadors participants:  Abby Park, Victoria McGovern, Wafa’a Satti, Shirley Ma, Destiny Alfonso, Jiayi Chen, Maegan Allen, Samantha Eschuk, Adam Barriga, Haley LaMonica, Jada Wilhelmsen, Nadina Khudaynazar, Cory Johnson, James Orlic, Nicholas Pioppi, Abigail Muscat, Rachel Borczuk, and Antonia Eidmann. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

MarineFisheries Hub3 eelgrass restoration mid-project progress report, June 2013

MarineFisheries Seagrass staff recently completed a mid-project status report detailing the background, methods, preliminary results and discussion of our eelgrass planting project in Salem Sound and Boston Harbor, funded as partial mitigation for the Hubline Pipeline impacts to eelgrass. 

You can read the full report on the Fisheries Habitat Program page of the MarineFisheries website.  Click the link below to get there directly.

Hub 3 mid-project report 2010-2012

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Not balloons, Man-o-war in Buzzards Bay

Man-of-wars are found, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more, floating in warm waters throughout the world's oceans. They have no independent means of propulsion and either drift on the currents or catch the wind with their pneumatophores. To avoid threats on the surface, they can deflate their air bags and briefly submerge. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/portuguese-man-of-war/.

I guess they got trapped in currents and debris pushed north due to early effects of Tropical Storm Andrea.

We saw lots of Man-o-War washed up along the shore of Buzzards Bay yesterday from Chapoquoit to Woods Hole.  This one isn't the best one but I had to run back and get my camera and then this is the only one I could fine.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Spring recap

Jill Carr measuring canopy height at a Nahant reference bed.
Despite all the bad weather that we've had, it was a very busy and productive spring for the MarineFisheries HUB3 eelgrass restoration project.  Our work has shifted from Salem Sound to Boston Harbor, and the spring was spent planting and monitoring at six sites that were selected last fall.  The sites that were selected for restoration are Green Island, Great Brewster Island, Gallops Island, Long Island, Governors Island Flats, and Deer Island Flats.  All of our harvesting for the Boston Harbor restoration will take place in expansive natural eelgrass beds near Nahant.  We also began monitoring at three reference beds; two near Nahant and one east of Logan Airport.  As noted in a May post, during our initial assessment of the reference beds and harvest sites, it appeared that some of the natural beds had suffered some damage from winter storms that battered the area.  While we don’t have enough data to say for sure, the beds do seem to be rebounding as seedlings are growing and filling in some of the bare areas.    

Boston Harbor restoration, reference, and harvest sites.
The Boston Harbor sites are set up in a similar layout to our six plots per ¼ acre sites in Salem Sound.  The plots that were planted this spring will act as test plots and five additional plots will be added to the sites that are deemed successful based on the initial plots.  Our goal is to get at least 1 acre planted in Boston Harbor.  We are planning to use volunteers for large scale planting days again as last year’s volunteer days with Salem Sound Coastwatch and The New England Aquarium’s Live Blue Ambassadors program were a huge success.

Earlier in the spring, we looked at two of our restoration sites that were planted last year in Salem Sound.  Both the Woodbury Point site and the Middle Ground site survived the winter and appeared to be expanding.  A full monitoring event is planned for all of the Salem Sound sites in late July so that we can determine the actual one year success of those sites.

We are all keeping our fingers crossed for the weather to begin to improve.  We have a lot of work to do throughout the summer, so stay tuned for further updates.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Creepy oyster toadfish lurking beneath the moorings in West Falmouth Harbor.  Looks like he could use some chapstick.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Declining density and extent of eelgrass at Salem Sound and Nahant could be due to storm damage

Hi! Back in the water again after a long winter in the office...


So far we have been to the Nahant meadow twice this spring.  The first time in April we came to retrieve a hobo temp/light monitor and harvest for plantings in Boston Harbor outer islands. Notes from August 2012 at that site indicate that plants were tall and lush, 75% cover and approximately 80shts/m2 with many reproductive shoots.  The meadow was continuous with few open patches.  But in April, we observed a low density patchy bed with large eroded areas and other areas of deep sand waves.  Our screw anchor, installed back at the end of August 2012, was buried up to the eye. 

We were back at the Nahant eelgrass meadow last week looking for a site to establish a monitoring station.  We ran a drop camera along several transects spaced throughout the DEP mapped area.  We were surprised and disappointed to find a large portion of the area mapped by DEP in 2006 is now gone and the remaining grass is mostly patchy, similar to what we saw in April.  The southeast lobe of the bed persists, but has contracted from it's 2006 extent.  Check out the rough map below digitized from our field notes, showing the remaining meadow, and an area of patchy grass and other sections of the bed that are now only sand waves.

We plan to return with divers for a closer look to help determine what might have occurred.  From the camera view it appeared that sand waves had swept over the bed, possibly burying the grass.  This meadow has long been a lush dense meadow and one of the few remaining north of Boston of this size (in MA).  Many groups have used this bed as a reference bed and donor bed for eelgrass projects in Boston.  The green dots on the map above show the locations where we are investigating possible establishment of a new SeagrassNet, long term monitoring station.

Salem Sound

At our SeagrassNet site in Salem Sound (Misery Island, Beverly) we also found low density and evidence of erosion.  It looked like much of the sand had been washed away leaving a hard-packed clay.  There is still grass clinging to the clay, so hopefully as the season progresses it will fill back in.  I think we are seeing the effects of a late winter with several storms, including NEMO in February 2013.

Sand eroded away leaving hard-packed clay over much of the shallow side (transect A) of the meadow

SeagrassNet quadrat showing low density eelgrass and eroded areas of clay

erosion around a small eelgrass clump near transect A

Taking a biomass sample on Transect B

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mooring video, Salem Sound Under Water lecture series and more!

Greetings from the MarineFisheries eelgrass team!  Like many of you, much of our winter work involves crunching data from the previous field season and disseminating our findings in reports and public presentations. I recently gave a presentation as part of the “ Salem Sound Underwater” lecture series hosted by Salem Sound Coastwatch (http://www.salemsound.org/) The talk focused on eelgrass, why it is important and what we are doing to map, monitor and restore it to our coast. 

 The next presentation in the series will be "Saltmarshes Under Siege" by Robert Buchsbaum of the Mass Audubon Society,  March 27th, 7pm at the Marblehead Abbot Public Library.

We are always trying to find new ways to engage the public through presentations, pictures and videos.  Recently, we edited some of our field work videos to turn them into educational tools.  One example is our video of a dive on a traditional, block and chain, boat mooring. The footage, captured in July 2011, demonstrates divers monitoring a boat mooring located within a mooring field that overlaps an eelgrass meadow in Manchester-by-the-Sea. The chain from the traditional mooring system drags along the bottom, scouring the seafloor as it sweeps in and out with the waves. This was not a very windy day, but look at that chain bounce!

The Manchester mooring project was part of a collaboration with the Mass Bays Program and was funded by the Association of National Estuary Programs with a NOAA Community Based Restoration Partnership Grant.  The primary objective of the project was to restore eelgrass to denuded areas around traditional block and chain mooring systems.  Sixteen block and chain moorings were replaced with conservation mooring systems in existing eelgrass beds: eight in Manchester and eight in Provincetown.  Following replacement of the moorings, eelgrass was transplanted into a subset of the scars to determine if transplanting would facilitate the recovery of eelgrass.  Monitoring has been performed annually and is still underway.  For more information, refer to the project poster here: http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dmf/programsandprojects/neers_mooring_poster.pdf

Looking forward to Spring and our upcoming field season!

- Tay Evans, MarineFisheries biologist