The document provides an overview of the importance of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in Oregon’s estuarine ecosystems, highlighting its role in supporting various marine species and its cultural significance to tribal groups. Eelgrass plays a crucial role in sustaining salmon, fish, birds, crabs, oysters, and the economies of coastal communities. The document emphasizes the environmental services provided by eelgrass, such as carbon sequestration, mitigation of ocean acidification, and protection against extreme weather events.

Despite its significance, eelgrass faces global threats, with around 30 percent of the world’s seagrass disappearing since the 1870s. The document focuses on the specific challenges faced by eelgrass in Oregon, including recent evidence of its disappearance in Coos Bay and Yaquina Bay. It stresses the need for a transformation in eelgrass management and increased protection for estuarine habitats.

The first edition of the Primer, supported by the Spirit Mountain Community Fund and Crag Law Center, concentrates on Coos Bay, addressing the outdated Estuary Management Plans (EMPs) for Oregon’s estuaries. The Primer aims to raise awareness of eelgrass and proposes changes to the Coos Bay EMP to enhance eelgrass protection.

The document also presents Part I of the Primer as a quick reference guide for the public to engage in decision-making processes impacting eelgrass. It outlines what eelgrass is, why it needs protection and provides insights into the optimal environmental conditions for eelgrass in Oregon.

Additionally, the Primer discusses the threats faced by eelgrass, categorizing them into physical land and water use, climate change events, and other human-related factors. The causes of eelgrass decline in Oregon’s estuaries are explored, with a focus on temperature stressors associated with global warming.

The concluding section highlights the importance of updating legal frameworks, particularly Estuary Management Plans, to improve eelgrass protection. It encourages public involvement in the ongoing update of the Yaquina Bay EMP, emphasizing the need for informed decision-making and community support to address the challenges facing eelgrass in Oregon’s estuaries.

Explore the Primer