Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 23–46 | Cite as

Integrating Scales of Seagrass Monitoring to Meet Conservation Needs

  • Hilary A. NecklesEmail author
  • Blaine S. Kopp
  • Bradley J. Peterson
  • Penelope S. Pooler


We evaluated a hierarchical framework for seagrass monitoring in two estuaries in the northeastern USA: Little Pleasant Bay, Massachusetts, and Great South Bay/Moriches Bay, New York. This approach includes three tiers of monitoring that are integrated across spatial scales and sampling intensities. We identified monitoring attributes for determining attainment of conservation objectives to protect seagrass ecosystems from estuarine nutrient enrichment. Existing mapping programs provided large-scale information on seagrass distribution and bed sizes (tier 1 monitoring). We supplemented this with bay-wide, quadrat-based assessments of seagrass percent cover and canopy height at permanent sampling stations following a spatially distributed random design (tier 2 monitoring). Resampling simulations showed that four observations per station were sufficient to minimize bias in estimating mean percent cover on a bay-wide scale, and sample sizes of 55 stations in a 624-ha system and 198 stations in a 9,220-ha system were sufficient to detect absolute temporal increases in seagrass abundance from 25% to 49% cover and from 4% to 12% cover, respectively. We made high-resolution measurements of seagrass condition (percent cover, canopy height, total and reproductive shoot density, biomass, and seagrass depth limit) at a representative index site in each system (tier 3 monitoring). Tier 3 data helped explain system-wide changes. Our results suggest tiered monitoring as an efficient and feasible way to detect and predict changes in seagrass systems relative to multi-scale conservation objectives.


Seagrass Monitoring Multi-scale Eelgrass Measurable attributes Sampling design 



Funding for this study was provided by the US Geological Survey, Park Oriented Biological Support Program and the National Park Service, Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network. We thank Fred Short for instruction in the SeagrassNet approach; Fred Short, Jeffrey Gaeckle, and David Rivers for help in establishing our tier 3 monitoring site in LPB according to the SeagrassNet spatial design; Holly Bayley, Lena Curtis, Steve Dwyer, Bev Johnson, Carrie Phillips, Lotte Rivers, Steve Smith, Adam Thime, and Jesse Wheeler for field assistance in LPB; and Brooke Rodgers and Jamie Brisbin for field assistance in GSB/MB. We also thank Andrew Gilbert and Dennis Skidds for expert GIS assistance and tutelage. We are grateful to Carrie Phillips and Megan Tyrrell of Cape Cod National Seashore and Michael Bilecki of Fire Island National Seashore for logistical support, and we appreciate the cooperation of Dawson Farber, Harbormaster and Shellfish Constable for the town of Orleans, MA, in maintaining a long-term tier 3 monitoring site in LPB. This manuscript was greatly improved by the comments of Nancy Rybicki, Melisa Wong, and two anonymous reviewers. Use of trade, product, or firm names does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilary A. Neckles
    • 1
    Email author
  • Blaine S. Kopp
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bradley J. Peterson
    • 3
  • Penelope S. Pooler
    • 4
  1. 1.US Geological SurveyPatuxent Wildlife Research CenterAugustaUSA
  2. 2.Kimball Union AcademyMeridenUSA
  3. 3.School of Marine and Atmospheric SciencesStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  4. 4.National Park Service, Northeast Coastal and Barrier NetworkUniversity of Rhode Island Coastal Institute in KingstonKingstonUSA

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