If you’ve ever explored a marsh flat at low tide or boated across a bay, you’ve been among sea grass beds—vital ecosystems that support a wide range of marine life, serving as food, habitat, shelter, and spawning grounds. In coastal areas worldwide, sea grass is on the decline, choked by an explosion of algae that thrives on, among other things, the nutrients in fertilizer runoff that reach coastal waters. Algae obscures sunlight and saps oxygen; this, combined with increasing water temperatures, inhibits the grasses’ growth.
In New Jersey, sea grass decline affects the people and industries that depend on Barnegat Bay for recreation and income. Faculty, students, research assistants, and others from Rutgers’ Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences study sea grass and its inhabitants in the bay in order to understand more about algae and other threats to this delicate and important coastal Jersey ecosystem.