According to the report from the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, the extent of seagrass meadows in the Albermarle-Pamlico estuary decreased by 5.6 percent — or 5,686 acres — between 2006 and 2013 despite available habitat for the resource to expand. Seagrass is declining worldwide, but rates in North Carolina are at or below the global average. North Carolina has the largest seagrass acreage on the East Coast, with about 100,000 acres.
The decrease was greater in more highly populated areas of the estuary. It is likely that increased water pollution in these more populated areas contributed to the higher rate of seagrass decline. Because seagrass is very sensitive to water quality, including nutrient and sediment pollution, a decrease in the acreage of these underwater meadows indicates that the overall health of North Carolina’s estuaries may also be worsening.
Data used for the report were collected using aerial surveys from 2006-2007 and 2013. A third survey was completed in 2019-2020. Analysis of this new survey is underway. Access the report at bit.ly/2PhfNxO.