Developing Baseline Data on Native Eelgrass to Inform Conservation Strategies 

Researchers link population structure and trait variation in native eelgrass Zostera marina; creating baselines for coastal habitat restoration and management in Washington State.

Principal Investigator

Kerry Naish, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

Jeffrey Gaeckle, Washington Department of Natural Resources

Cinde Donoghue, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Jennifer Ruesink, University of Washington


Eelgrass is an important species that provides essential habitat to fish, such as Pacific herring and juvenile salmon, but is declining in many areas of Washington. Ongoing efforts to restore eelgrass often lack information about population structure and may not fully account for changes in the environment. This project will determine the population structure and the genetic basis of various traits in native Washington eelgrass (Zostera marina) populations and assess how genetically distinct populations respond to environmental stressors. The baseline data generated will be used to make the first comprehensive geographic map of state eelgrass population structure and describe the relationship between eelgrass population structure, phenotypic diversity, and local adaptation and resistance to environmental stressors. The geographic map and relational information will be used directly by planners to inform future eelgrass restoration efforts.