Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 177–192 | Cite as

Large-Scale Differences in Community Structure and Ecosystem Services of Eelgrass (Zostera marina) Beds Across Three Regions in Eastern Canada

  • Mizuho NambaEmail author
  • Heike K. Lotze
  • Allison L. Schmidt


Eelgrass (Zostera marina) forms extensive beds in temperate coastal and estuarine environments worldwide and provides important ecosystem services, including habitat for a wide range of species as well as nutrient cycling and carbon storage. However, little is known about how eelgrass ecosystem structure and services differ naturally among regions. Using large-scale field surveys, we examined differences in eelgrass bed structure, carbon and nitrogen storage, community composition, and habitat services across three distinct regions in Eastern Canada. We focused on eelgrass beds with low anthropogenic impacts to compare natural differences. In addition, we analyzed the relationships of eelgrass bed structure with environmental conditions, and species composition with bed structure and environmental conditions, to elucidate potential drivers of observed differences. Our results indicate that regional differences in eelgrass bed structure were weakly correlated with water column properties, whereas differences in carbon and nitrogen storage were mainly driven by differences in eelgrass biomass. There were distinct regional differences in species composition and diversity, which were particularly linked to temperature, as well as eelgrass bed structure indicating differences in habitat provision. Our results highlight natural regional differences in ecosystem structure and services which could inform spatial management and conservation strategies for eelgrass beds.


Eelgrass beds Ecosystem services Species composition Nutrient storage Coastal ecosystem 



We thank M. Coll, J. Wysmyk, A. Battersby, K. Varsava, J. Lindley, and AquaPrime Mussel Ranch for field support, M. Kienast for CN analysis, and D. Ibarra for support with water samples. Our thanks go to Kouchibouguac National Park, Taylor Head Provincial Park, Spry Bay Campground, all those who hosted us or granted us access to our study sites in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and the anonymous reviewers who have improved this manuscript. This work was funded by a National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery grant to HKL, a NSERC Post Graduate Scholarship—Doctoral and Killam Trust Predoctoral Scholarship to ALS, and the Sarah Lawson Research Scholarship and the Gary Hicks Memorial Award to MN.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_271_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (276 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 275 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Akkeshi Marine Station, Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversityAkkeshiJapan

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