Eelgrass Is Essential to Ocean Health

Marine plant plays vital role in supporting fish, wildlife, coastal communities

Eelgrass
Eelgrass is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem that supports a variety of wildlife, including the marbled godwit.
DGHayes/Getty Images

Eelgrass is one of the most important plants in the ocean. It cleans the water, nurtures fish, absorbs climate-warming carbon, produces oxygen, and protects the coastline. Healthy eelgrass beds also support salmon, crab, and other wildlife that are important to the economy of many coastal communities.

But this versatile seagrass, found in estuaries, bays, and other shallow nearshore areas, is disappearing because of pollution, dredging, development, sea level rise, and other impacts. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s seagrass has vanished since the 1870s. Globally, we’re now losing an area of eelgrass that would cover two football fields every hour. On the West Coast, eelgrass in California’s Morro Bay has declined by more than 90 percent since 2007.

6 Reasons to Protect Eelgrass

  1. Protects coastlines
    Eelgrass helps stabilize the shore in addition to furnishing habitat for a variety of marine wildlife.
  2. Mitigates climate change
    Eelgrass absorbs carbon dioxide and methane -- climate-warming greenhouse gases -- and stores them in its root stsyem.
  3. Nurtures fish
    Eelgrass beds provide shelter and foraging areas for rockfish, salmon and Dungeness crabs.
  4. Feeds birds
    Migratory waterfowl, including the Pacific black brant, eat eelgrass.
  5. Improves water quality and clarity
    Elgrass beds absorb pollutants and help prevent harmful algal blooms.
  6. Strengthens the coastal economy
    Eelgrass supports fish and shellfish that are integral to the commercial and recreational fishing industries.

OUR WORK

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.