Characterization of ecosystem structure and function recovery within the NOAA MOC-P mitigation basin, Newport, Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v118rh33k

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  • Seagrass ecosystems are considered some of the most productive coastal habitats in the world. One such seagrass within estuaries of the Pacific Northwest, Zostera marina (eelgrass), is recognized to be an ecosystem engineering species that provides many important ecosystem functions and services. In 2010, construction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Operations Center - Pacific (MOC-P) began in Yaquina Bay, Newport, OR. Construction of MOC-P included a 396-m pier to accommodate large oceanographic vessels; coupled with this construction were unavoidable ecological damages to eelgrass ecosystems. The Port of Newport worked with state and federal natural resource agencies to develop a compensatory mitigation plan, including the creation of a transplanted eelgrass bed, to offset losses caused by pier construction. This thesis characterizes ecosystem structure and function recovery within the NOAA MOC-P mitigation basin. The monitoring approach utilized in this study was ecosystem-based, rather than the mandatory single-target approach employed by the Port of Newport. Ecological indicators and environmental variables were monitored over the course of 12 months at the re-planted mitigation bed (Mitigation Site) and two nearby reference sites. Each eelgrass ecosystem monitored during this study was observed to be unique in structure, predominately driven by differences in physical setting. Most ecological indicators (6 of the 10 observed) at the Mitigation Site were comparable to those exhibited by an existing bed within the reference sites. Seasonal differences in faunal communities occurred among all sites, the pattern of which varied in large part due to site-specific recruitment events. After 12 months of monitoring, large-scale eelgrass cover increased at the Mitigation Site, which was the only significant change not observed at the reference sites. The re-planted eelgrass bed within the NOAA MOC-P mitigation area was not observed to be a failed ecosystem during this study, but rather an expanding eelgrass bed that was adequately performing the functions associated with eelgrass ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest.
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