Eelgrass Enhancement and Restoration in the Lower Columbia River Estuary, Period of Performance: Feb 2008-Sep 2009.

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability to enhance distribution of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in the Columbia River Estuary to serve as refuge and feeding habitat for juvenile salmon, Dungeness crab, and other fish and wildlife. We strongly suspected that limited eelgrass seed dispersal has resulted in the present distribution of eelgrass meadows, and that there are other suitable places for eelgrass to survive and form functional meadows. Funded as part of the Bonneville Power Administration's call for Innovative Projects, we initiated a multistage study in 2008 that combined modeling, remote sensing, and field experimentation to: (1) ... continued below

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82 pages

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Judd, C.; Thom, R & Borde, A. September 8, 2009.

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Description

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability to enhance distribution of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in the Columbia River Estuary to serve as refuge and feeding habitat for juvenile salmon, Dungeness crab, and other fish and wildlife. We strongly suspected that limited eelgrass seed dispersal has resulted in the present distribution of eelgrass meadows, and that there are other suitable places for eelgrass to survive and form functional meadows. Funded as part of the Bonneville Power Administration's call for Innovative Projects, we initiated a multistage study in 2008 that combined modeling, remote sensing, and field experimentation to: (1) Spatially predict habitat quality for eelgrass; (2) Conduct experimental plantings; and (3) Evaluate restoration potential. Baseline in-situ measurements and remote satellite observations were acquired for locations in the Lower Columbia River Estuary (LCRE) to determine ambient habitat conditions. These were used to create a habitat site-selection model, using data on salinity, temperature, current velocity, light availability, wave energy, and desiccation to predict the suitability of nearshore areas for eelgrass. Based on this model and observations in the field, five sites that contained no eelgrass but appeared to have suitable environmental conditions were transplanted with eelgrass in June 2008 to test the appropriateness of these sites for eelgrass growth. We returned one year after the initial planting to monitor the success rate of the transplants. During the year after transplanting, we carried out a concurrent study on crab distribution inside and outside eelgrass meadows to study crab usage of the habitat. One year after the initial transplant, two sites, one in Baker Bay and one in Young's Bay, had good survival or expansion rates with healthy eelgrass. Two sites had poor survival rates, and one site had a total loss of the transplanted eelgrass. For submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) restoration projects, these are reasonable success results and represent a small net gain in eelgrass in the LCRE. Crabs used both the eelgrass and unvegetated substrate, though in neither were there great abundance of the young-of-the-year crabs. During the field assessment of 12 potential transplant sites, divers discovered one site in southern Young's Bay that contained a previously undocumented eelgrass bed. This integrated project developed the first predictive maps of sites suitable for eelgrass and other SAV in the lower estuary. In addition, techniques developed for this project to assess light levels in existing and potential submerged habitats have great potential to be used in other regions for nearshore and coastal monitoring of SAV. Based on these preliminary results, we conclude that eelgrass distribution could likely be expanded in the estuary, though additional information on current eelgrass locations, usage by species of interest, and monitoring of current conditions would help develop a baseline and verify benefit. Our recommendations for future studies include: (1) Site Monitoring. Continued monitoring of restoration sites along with physical metrics of light, temperature and salinity within beds. Continued monitoring will both assist managers in understanding the longevity and expansion rate of planted sites and inform practical guidance on the minimum planted eelgrass required to develop a resilient meadow. (2) Natural bed documentation and monitoring. Document current eelgrass habitat conditions in the Columbia River by mapping eelgrass and other SAV species and monitoring physical metrics in natural beds. This will assist by better defining the factors that control the annual and spatial variation in eelgrass in the estuary, and thus lead to improved management. Improved information on conditions will help refine a habitat suitability model that can more accurately predict where eelgrass can be restored or areas under duress. (3) Monitor Species Use. Expanded monitoring of Dungeness crab and salmon use and benefit from eelgrass in the estuary to evaluate how feeding and rearing functions of eelgrass benefit the survival and growth of these species. We have two final recommendations. First, if transplanting of eelgrass is to be expanded, donor stocks of plants should also be expanded to reduce the dependence on natural meadows. We recommend that an eelgrass culture facility be considered to supply stocks of eelgrass for planting that are developed from the eelgrass populations now in the estuary. Second, freshwater submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) occurs in many parts of the estuary, and probably has importance to juvenile salmon (although this also needs verification). Restoration and expansion of freshwater SAV should be considered in a comprehensive effort to restore the submerged vegetation habitats through the Columbia River estuary.

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82 pages

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  • Related Information: document dated September 2009

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  • Report No.: P113344
  • Report No.: PNNL-18711
  • Grant Number: 26934 REL 12
  • Grant Number: 000948
  • DOI: 10.2172/966365 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 966365
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc934065

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  • September 8, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Nov. 23, 2016, 5:13 p.m.

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Judd, C.; Thom, R & Borde, A. Eelgrass Enhancement and Restoration in the Lower Columbia River Estuary, Period of Performance: Feb 2008-Sep 2009., report, September 8, 2009; Portland, Oregon. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc934065/: accessed October 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.