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Seagrasses create underwater forests in many estuarine and coastal areas worldwide. These ecosystems are critical in contributing to human wellbeing; providing habitat and foraging opportunities for many fisheries species, maintaining water quality, coastal protection, mitigation against ocean acidification and carbon sequestration. Being in coastal areas, they are subject to both local (e.g. pollution, overfishing) and global threats (climate change, species invasions) and they are declining worldwide. Eelgrass is the most widespread seagrass species in the world, colonizing most of the northern hemisphere. Studying this species allows us not only to undertake large-scale ecological questions by comparing ecosystem functioning across its distribution range (which Dr. Tomas Nash does as a participant of the Zostera Experimental Network; ZEN) but, also to address conservation questions that are important at local, regional and global scales. In particular, through a worldwide collaborative network, Dr. Tomas Nash and the ZEN partners have been examining general questions in ecology, such as the relative role of top-down vs. bottom-up controls in driving ecosystem structure and functioning, as well as quantifying carbon stocks provided by eelgrass at a global scale. In addition, Dr. Tomas Nash and her collaborators have been examining potential effects of nutrient pollution and the invasion of the non-native seagrass Z. japonica on Oregon eelgrass beds, as well as interactions between aquaculture and eelgrass along the Pacific Northwest in order to provide accurate data for managers dealing with water quality, seagrass conservation and aquaculture regulations.
Seagrant work: http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu/research/current-research/vulnerability-oregon-seagrass-beds-eutrophication
Zostera Experimental Network: http://zenscience.org/