Monitoring Eelgrass In Northern British Columbia

As part of a biodiversity monitoring and assessment project near the site of a proposed liquefied natural gas export facility, Archipelago introduced a plan to monitor the health of nearby eelgrass communities over time.

When preparing to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Bish Cove, near Kitimat, British Columbia, Chevron Canada and Apache Canada initiated a Biodiversity Monitoring and Assessment Program (BMAP) to gather information about the status and trends of habitats, ecosystems and species at that location before, during and after construction.

As one of the BMAP member organizations (along with the University of Northern British Columbia’s Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation, Education and Sustainability), Archipelago was invited to design and implement two research protocols: an Eelgrass Community Monitoring Program, and a Juvenile Salmon Monitoring Program.

Monitoring the eelgrass community

The objective of the Eelgrass Community Monitoring Program was to assess the status, trends, and natural variation of the Bish Cove eelgrass bed, along with any associated ecosystem functions, organisms, and environmental variables critical for its survival.

Based on this, Archipelago could then determine potential changes or effects to the distribution, productivity, and ecological value of the eelgrass bed that may result from the construction and operation of the new facility. This program involved a range of environmental assessments:

  • Eelgrass bed area and distribution (towed underwater video)
  • Eelgrass bed shoot density and relative productivity (SCUBA dive surveys)
  • Water quality with respect to light and turbidity (subsurface moored auto-logging light and water quality data loggers)
  • Benthic infauna community composition and diversity (Van Veen grab sampling)
  • Physical and chemical sediment quality (Van Veen and Ponar grab sampling)
  • Additional data collected from the Bish Cove Marine Monitoring Program (including sedimentation rates and sources, physical and chemical water quality, nearshore fish community composition and diversity)

The Eelgrass Community Monitoring Program was successfully implemented and completed in 2013, as was the second year of data collection in 2014.

While providing valuable insight into the relationship between the eelgrass bed and the marine facilities at Bish Cove, the Eelgrass Community Monitoring Program could also help support future efforts to conserve eelgrass bed integrity and function in other areas of industrial development.

For more information on this project, visit the Chevron Canada Kitimat LNG project page