Seagrasses are Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) that create highly productive habitats in shallow coastal waters across the globe. Seagrasses are true vascular plants that have roots and make flowers, therefore not a seaweed which is macroalgae.
New York Seagrass Map
The most current available seagrass maps from the Long Island Sound Study, Peconic Estuary Program, and the South Shore Estuary Reserve have been summarized to create one map of New York seagrass habitat.
Good Seagrass = Good Seafood
- Seagrass habitat provides food to marine organisms that ultimately supports the local seafood that people eat.
- Seagrass habitat is federally recognized as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) because many different commercially and recreationally important fish species utilize seagrass meadows.
Seagrass also benefits society by supporting coastal environmental quality.
- The physical structure of seagrass helps absorb wave energy and deter erosion which supports shoreline resilience.
- Seagrass provides resistance in currents which causes particles in the water to settle to the seabed that is stabilized by seagrass roots.
- Seagrasses have high levels of photosynthesis which uses carbon dioxide and nutrients, resulting in improved oxygen levels and carbon storage.
Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is the dominant meadow forming perennial seagrass in New York estuaries. Widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima) is a smaller annual species of SAV that can also be found occasionally in some brackish (less salty) and estuarine waters around NY.
Unfortunately, eelgrass has been declining across NY waters. Acknowledging the importance of our eelgrass meadows and the necessity to conserve the remaining habitat, New York State legislation established a Seagrass Task Force in 2006.
- In 2009 the Task Force prepared a report to Governor and Legislature (PDF) making recommendations on restoring, researching, preserving, and properly managing this valuable marine resource.
- This led to passage of the "Seagrass Protection Act" in 2012 which prioritizes the designation of Seagrass Management Areas and developing Management Plans in consultation with local governments and stakeholders.