Sarah Joy Bittick
Canada has vast seagrass ecosystems, yet they are virtually unprotected and experiencing threats associated with accelerating coastal development and climate change—eutrophication, sedimentation, and increased temperature. In British Columbia, there is a long history of community effort to protect seagrass, but little formal legislative action. While federal measures are progressing under the convention on biological diversity (CBD), federal efforts will often miss seagrass, which occurs only at the coastal margins. Local action is necessary to protect seagrass, as individual communities and municipalities act to limit or reduce seagrass-harming actions. My research project will use a bottom-up ecological approach rather than top-down, with the goal of linking the possible negative impact of excessive nutrient input in seagrass beds to trophic use by fish and birds. Using a combination of historical data, nutrient loading models, and experimental approaches, I will work with partners from the City of Surrey to identify threshold levels of nutrient loading tolerated in Boundary Bay seagrass communities for use in water quality management planning. Together with my academic, conservation, and government collaborators, we will use this model in other communities across British Columbia to protect an important resource before habitat degradation becomes irreversible.