Nahirnick, N.K.; Costa, M.; Schroeder, S., and Sharma, T., 2020. Long-term eelgrass habitat change and associated human impacts on the west coast of Canada. Journal of Coastal Research, 36(1), 30–40. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Eelgrass (Zostera marina) forms a critical nearshore marine habitat in temperate coastal ecosystems. For three small estuaries in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, changes in eelgrass area coverage and shape index (over the period of 1932–2016) were assessed using historical aerial photographs and unoccupied aerial system (UAS) imagery. In addition, changes in eelgrass area and shape index were evaluated in relation to landscape-level coastal environmental indicators, namely shoreline activities and alterations and residential housing density. All three eelgrass meadows showed a deteriorating trend in eelgrass condition; on average, eelgrass area coverage decreased by 45.1%, while meadow complexity as indicated by the shape index increased by 66.3%. Shoreline activities (boats, docks, log booms, and armoring) and residential housing density increased markedly at all sites over the study period and were strongly correlated to eelgrass area coverage and shape index. Changes in these landscape-level indicators over this period corroborate the observed decline in eelgrass habitat condition, because they suggest an overall deterioration of coastal environmental health in the Salish Sea due to increased use of the coastal zone, as well as declines in water quality due to urbanization.