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IZEMBEK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE: Biologists Dive Into Eelgrass Monitoring at Izembek Lagoon
Alaska Region, August 10, 2015
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US Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Inventory and Monitoring Biologist Carol Damberg (left) works with US Geological Survey Researcher David Ward to sample and assesses eelgrass in Izembek Lagoon,  Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Cold Bay, AK July 2015.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Inventory and Monitoring Biologist Carol Damberg (left) works with US Geological Survey Researcher David Ward to sample and assesses eelgrass in Izembek Lagoon, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Cold Bay, AK July 2015. - Photo Credit: Stacey Lowe, USFWS Refuge Biologist, Izembek National Wildife Refuge
Biological Technician James Smith displays a starfish located in one of the eelgrass plots he sampled in Izembek Lagoon, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Cold Bay, AK July 2015.
Biological Technician James Smith displays a starfish located in one of the eelgrass plots he sampled in Izembek Lagoon, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Cold Bay, AK July 2015. - Photo Credit: Stacey Lowe, USFWS Refuge Biologist, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

In collaboration with United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, biologists at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) conducted intensive monitoring of eelgrass beds located in Izembek Lagoon. Izembek NWR biologists donned cold water dry suits and snorkeling gear to observe plots of eelgrass underwater up to 8 feet deep. Successful sampling occurred at 115 random survey points across the lagoon during a two week period in July. At each point biologists measured percent eelgrass cover, number of reproductive shoots, presence of marine invertebrates, occurrence of macro algae, and obtained baseline water quality parameters. Researchers also collected plants to determine average eelgrass biomass per unit area. Data will be collected annually to analyze changes over time in productivity, distribution, and abundance of eelgrass within the lagoon.

Izembek Lagoon contains one of the largest eelgrass beds in the world and is a critical habitat resource for many species including Pacific brant, emperor geese, sea otters, multiple salmon species, Steller’s eider, shorebirds, and a variety of waterfowl. Eelgrass beds are highly sensitive to many of the changes predicted in current climate change models for the near arctic such as changes in water depth, water temperature, and salinity. Staff at Izembek Refuge are currently working with USGS partners and regional Refuge Inventory and Monitoring staff to develop a more intensive monitoring program to observe and quantify the trends in health and productivity of the eelgrass habitat in Izembek Lagoon. Currently, a formal monitoring protocol has been drafted and staff continue to refine the current survey methods. The comprehensive monitoring effort will incorporate a multi-scale design to assess health and distribution trends annually for the next 10-20 years.

 

For More information contact: Carol Damberg, carol_damberg@fws.gov

 


Contact Info: Samuel Cliff, 907-786-3492, samuel_cliff@fws.gov
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