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Science and Management of the Introduced Seagrass Zostera japonica in North America
Shafer, D., James E. Kaldy, AND J. Gaeckle. Science and Management of the Introduced Seagrass Zostera japonica in North America. ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY, 53(1):147-162, (2014).
Federal and state researchers assessed the state of the science to support management decisions for the introduced seagrass species, Zostera japonica, on the Pacific Coast of North America, finding that there are critical gaps in the information needed to develop optimally effective management strategies. Seagrasses are generally considered to be a cornerstone of estuarine ecosystem health and productivity, yet this beneficial aspect runs counter to concerns over potential ecosystem effects of introduced species. As a result, management strategies by Pacific States range from protection as nursery habitat to eradication. Eradication strategies for this non-native seagrass are contrary to world-wide conservation efforts for native seagrasses, and may be inconsistent with Federal and State regulations. The review provides recommendations for studies that may provide resource managers with better information in order to develop appropriate and effective management strategies
Healthy seagrass is considered a prime indicator of estuarine ecosystem function. On the Pacific coast of North America, at least two congeners of Zostera occur: native Zostera marina, and introduced, Z. japonica. Z. japonica is considered “invasive” and therefore, ecologically and economically harmful by some, while others consider it benign or perhaps beneficial. Z. japonica does not appear on the Federal or the Oregon invasive species or noxious weed lists. However, the State of California lists it as both an invasive and noxious weed; Washington State recently listed it as a noxious weed. We describe the management dynamics in North America with respect to these congener species and highlight the science and policies behind these decisions. In recent years, management strategies at the state level have ranged from historical protection of Z. japonica as a priority habitat in Washington to eradication in California. In 2011, Washington State reversed its long standing policy to protect Z. japonica and is developing permits for chemical control of this plant. This fractured management approach contradicts efforts to conserve and protect seagrass in other regions of the US and around the world. Science must play a critical role in the assessment of Z. japonica ecology and the immediate and long-term effects of management actions. The information and recommendations provided here can serve as a basis for providing scientific data in order to develop better informed management decisions and aide in defining a uniform management strategy for Z. japonica.