Understanding the past and predicting the future in a California estuary: The role of sediment dynamics on eelgrass resilience in Morro Bay

R/HCE-07
Start/End: February, 2018 to February, 2020

Seagrasses are a critical habitat for numerous marine species, and provide other ecosystem benefits such as improving water clarity, absorbing nutrients, reducing fecal pathogens, stabilizing shorelines, and taking up carbon dioxide. Globally seagrasses have been increasingly threatened with widespread declines. Since 2007, eelgrass (a type of seagrass) has declined catastrophically in Morro Bay from 344 acres to less than 10 acres. One suspected contribution to the decline is changes in sediment accumulation and movement throughout the bay, which affects the areas where eelgrass can survive.

In order to evaluate the link between sediment processes and eelgrass abundance, the researchers will collect field measurements in Morro Bay and develop a model to simulate past, present, and future sediment movement throughout the estuary.

Results of the project will be directly incorporated into more informed management of Morro Bay through partnerships and collaborations with the Morro Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP), as well as local and state agencies. Outreach and education events hosted by the MBNEP and at the biannual Cal Poly Pier Open House will showcase results to the local community. This project will also engage undergraduate students in cutting edge research.

Co-principal Investigators

  • University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography