Eelgrass meadows provide essential habitat for shellfish and finfish.

cunner in eelgrass
Image by Kimberly Manzo

Juvenile fish seek refuge from predators in eelgrass meadows.

peconic eelgrass
Image by Kimberly Manzo

Many local eelgrass populations are in decline.

eelgrass collection
Image by Chris Pickerell

The CCE Eelgrass Team are all certified SCUBA divers.

planting eelgrass

CCE Eelgrass Team planting eelgrass.

Eelgrass Restoration and Monitoring

The main purpose of the CCE Eelgrass Program is to restore and monitor eelgrass, our dominant local seagrass species. Eelgrass meadows provide essential habitat for many species of finfish and shellfish during part or all stages of life. Due to the structure and protection they provide, eelgrass meadows are the most biodiverse marine habitats in our region. These meadows also help to prevent or lesson erosion from storm events and help control turbidity by slowing currents and settling particulates from the water column. Unfortunately, eelgrass populations have declined dramatically over the past 75 years due to many reasons, and without our help, will not likely make a comeback in the near future. Although water quality has stabilized, if not improved, in many areas around Long Island, there are no ready sources of propagules (seeds or adult shoots) to naturally vegetate these areas. This situation is called propagule limitation and it is the basis for our restoration work.

Cornell’s Eelgrass program has several major objectives:

  • To track the extent and health of (monitor) existing eelgrass meadows as well as the historic distribution of meadows throughout Long Island.
  • To conduct proactive restoration at appropriate sites around Long Island.
  • To develop alternative sources of eelgrass planting propagules including seeds, transplants and nursery grown material.
  • To develop innovative planting methods to restore eelgrass using both seeds and transplants.
  • To conduct a limited amount of applied research on eelgrass ecology and restoration.

Cornell's Eelgrass Program has developed an entire website that has become world renowned for information on eelgrass biology, ecology, restoration and importance. Please visit and check it out!

Citizens can get involved with eelgrass restoration efforts through our Marine Meadows Program! Folks can help weave eelgrass while learning about the species and its importance. See the Marine Meadows section as well as Citizen Science, or visit!


Christopher H. Pickerell
Marine Program Director

Last updated September 6, 2017