Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 25 Nov 2017 12am

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    Saturday, November 25, 2017-12:33:42A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Reef Tips: Our Marine Powerhouse

“Sea grass has been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth, it is responsible for keeping the world’s coastlines clean and healthy, and supports many different species of animal, including humans. And yet, it is often overlooked, regarded as merely an innocuous feature of the ocean.” (Unsworth, 2016)

Through the Coral Reef Initiative (CRI) summer internship, my partner Jason Bonachita and I were able to learn and appreciate the importance of sea grass in our lagoon. As CRI interns under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we had the opportunity to partake on a new project focused on collecting various data of the large-sized sea grass, Enhalus acoroides within our Saipan lagoon. The overall purpose of this project is to develop a baseline for sea grass colony health, size, and distribution.

Contributed photo

Our project required us to target zones abundant with E. acoroides colonies. We created 24 zones, at 0.25 km increments, ranging from Quartermaster Rd. to Tanapag. The majority of these zones can be found in public areas too! You might have seen Jason and I walking along the beach or even crossing the road with a bunch of gear on our backs and shoulders. The gear you see us carrying are the tools we use to map and monitor the sea grass. The orange buoy with many things attached to it, is what we call a PAM float – short for Pamela Anderson from the show Baywatch, who plays a lifeguard carrying a similar looking lifeguard float. The PAM float holds all our materials including the measuring tape for patch diameter and height, quadrat for surveys, GPS devices, field clipboard for data sheets and procedures, litter net for gathering marine debris, and even our fins for when we go out into deeper waters. With its highly visible orange color and buoyancy, the PAM float also protected us from boats and jet skis while we were collecting data. It was definitely one of our most valuable pieces of equipment all throughout this internship.

The past two months of working on a new project and building a foundation for future scientific research was definitely challenging yet enriching! Sea grass monitoring is crucial, and what better way to take care of our island and our ocean than by maintaining and protecting the sea grass meadows in our lagoon. We must remember that these flowering plants are the powerhouses of the sea, able to create life in otherwise unproductive environments because of their dynamic nature (Unsworth, 2016). They can adapt and greatly influence the physical, chemical, and biological settings in coastal waters, acting as ecological engineers and providing many important ecological services to the marine environment (Orth, 2006).With this project, we are able to provide information from our E. acoroides explorations to advance research and provide local agencies with the data needed to better manage our near-shore environment.

WORKS CITED:

Richard K.F. Unsworth, Jessie Jarvis, Len McKenzie, and Mike Van Keulen. “Seagrass is a marine powerhouse, so why isn’t it on the world’s conservation agenda?” The Conversation. N.p., 11 Oct. 2016. Web. 27 July 2017.

Orth, Robert J., Tim J. B. Carruthers, William C. Dennison, Carlos M. Duarte, James W. Fourqurean, Kenneth L. Heck, A. Randall Hughes, Gary A. Kendrick, W. Judson Kenworthy, Suzanne Olyarnik, Frederick T. Short, Michelle Waycott, and Susan L. Williams. “Global Crisis for Seagrass Ecosystems | BioScience | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic. Oxford University Press, 01 Dec. 2006. Web. 30 July 2017.