Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 232–242 | Cite as

Twelve-Year Mapping and Change Analysis of Eelgrass (Zostera marina) Areal Abundance in Massachusetts (USA) Identifies Statewide Declines

Article

Abstract

In 1994, 1995, and 1996, seagrasses in 46 of the 89 coastal embayments and portions of seven open-water near-shore areas in Massachusetts were mapped with a combination of aerial photography, digital imagery, and ground truth verification. In the open-water areas, 9,477.31 ha of seagrass were identified, slightly more than twice the 4,846.2 ha detected in the 46 coastal embayments. A subset of the 46 embayments, including all regions of the state were remapped in 2000, 2001, and 2002 and again in 2006 and 2007. We detected a wide range of changes from increases as high as 29% y−1 in Boston Harbor to declines as large as −33% y−1 in Salem Harbor. One embayment, Waquoit Bay, lost all of its seagrass during the mapping period. For the 12-year change analysis representing all geographic regions of the state, only three embayments exhibited increases in seagrass coverage while 30 of the original 46 embayments showed some indication of decline. For the decadal period, rates of decline in the individual embayments ranged from −0.06% y−1 to as high as −14.81% y−1. The median rate of decline by region ranged from −2.21% y−1 to −3.51% y−1 and was slightly less than the recently reported global rate of decline for seagrasses (−3.7% y−1). Accounting for the gains in three of the embayments, 755.16 ha (20.6%) of seagrass area originally detected was lost during the mapping interval. The results affirm that previously reported losses in a few embayments were symptomatic of more widespread seagrass declines in Massachusetts. State and Federal programs designed to improve environmental quality for conservation and restoration of seagrasses in Massachusetts should continue to be a priority for coastal managers.

Keywords

Massachusetts Seagrass Distribution Mapping Change analysis Declines Water quality 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. We thank Kathy Cronin, Jim Brown, Michael McHugh, Don Field, and Brooke Landry for laboratory and field assistance. Salary and equipment funding for W. Judson Kenworthy were provided by the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, NCCOS, NOS, NOAA.

Supplementary material

12237_2010_9371_MOESM1_ESM.doc (79 kb)
Supplementry Table 1 Data for hectares of seagrass mapped in 47 Massachusetts embayments in four regions (North Shore, South Shore, Buzzards Bay, Islands) and seven open-water areas (DOC 79 kb)

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles T. Costello
    • 1
  • William Judson Kenworthy
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Watershed Management, Massachusetts Department of Environmental ProtectionBostonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat ResearchNCCOS, NOS, NOAABeaufortUSA

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