When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 with associated travel restrictions, Matthew Long thought his students could shift their overseas research projects to instead study the seagrass meadow ecosystem in Waquoit Bay.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 with associated travel restrictions, Matthew Long thought his students could shift their overseas research projects to instead study the seagrass meadow ecosystem in Waquoit Bay. It’s a shallow, micro-tidal estuary on the south side of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, near the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) where Long is an associate scientist in the Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department.
However, when Long and his students looked for seagrass meadows where he had seen them in previous years, there were only a few shoots of dying Zostera marina eelgrass, a type of seagrass.
That prompted Long and Jordan Mora, a restoration ecologist with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, to analyze decades’ worth of local environmental monitoring data to find out what has happened to the estuary. What they determined is that Waquoit Bay has shifted from a benthic to a pelagically-dominated ecosystem due to human causes, including an excess influx of nutrient pollution along with climate change.
That disruption to Waquoit Bay’s ecosystem presents broad concerns about the fate of coastal estuaries worldwide, according to the researchers.
Read more at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Image: WHOI’s Matt Long and Jeff Coogan dive to check the status of underwater instruments near an eelgrass meadow, off Nashon Island, Mass. Researchers are studying coastal ecosystems amid concerns about water quality and overall health of estuaries worldwide. (Credit: Solomon Chen ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)