Seagrass meadows are one of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems in the world, but currently they are under severe risk of vanishment. They also play a crucial role in carbon sequestration, harnessing and storing large amounts of C02 within grounded sediments. These meadows are disappearing globally, and many still hold the question of why. Largely noticed across the Canadian island of Maliko’mijk, seagrass meadows have become brown and bare, a strong opposition to its appearance just a few decades ago. Its disappearance is due to severe external factors—pollution, seabed disturbance, invasive species, and warming waters. These factors have major implications for coastal erosion, biodiversity, habitat loss, and climate change.
Seagrass is a keystone species and can be found across all three coasts of Canada, where it supports hundreds of species spanning from salmon to geese. Researchers also state that eelgrass also plays a major role in stabilizing the climate, with some studies stating that seagrass sequesters two times more carbon than forests. The loss of seagrass is clear, with a global decline of one third, and an estimated 31% loss of eelgrass along the Atlantic coast and a 75% decrease in the northern parts of Canada. This decline is being observed and analyzed on the east coast of Canada, where it is affecting the Indigenous Mi’kmaq communities and resource abundance. Fortunately, a new project is in the works, joining researchers, land users, and Mi’kmaq knowledge holders to work together to reverse this decline. The project could help with the grass’s long-term survival and give answers to the effectiveness of the sequestration of carbon.
The Community Eelgrass Restoration Project aims to replenish and fill in the gaps of the past and present eelgrass across Nova Scotia. This inventory will then be used to guide future restoration. On the north shore of Nova Scotia, the project receives local help from the members of the Indigenous communities. As the area has been occupied by the Mi’kmaq for generations, these sites are sacred land. These grasses are home to the American eel, where it sat as the main food source for the Mi’kmaq. Upon this resource depletion, the Pictou Landing First Nation and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq have partnered with Dalhousie University on the restoration project. The Pictou Landing is also undergoing significant erosion, so the transplantation of eelgrass should simultaneously help protect against multiple factors.
Researchers on the project are also observing eelgrass variations that are more resilient to changing ocean conditions. This can be very beneficial for future populations and generations of eelgrass in these areas. Within testing each variation, researchers can solidify which variations would be most successful, and can help guide decisions regarding continuing restoration.