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HABITAT EELGRASS grass bed coverage in San Francisco Bay have been undertaken since 2003, and monitoring shows an overall trend of expansion. By 2011, acreage had increased from a 2009 baseline of 3,700 acres to nearly 4,000 acres — meet- ing the ten- year goal of 100 more acres in less than five years. By 2014, however, the latest monitoring data was showing a decline to 2,790 acres, well below the 2009 baseline. Scientists note, however, that eelgrass beds are a dynamic habitat and can experience tremendous variability year-to-year as a result of unique events or changes in environmental conditions. For instance, substantial declines in eelgrass detected in October 2006 princi- pally resulted from winter 2005-2006 storms and subsequent flooding, which loaded the North Bay with smothering sediment and depressed salinities for months at a time. 3,000 2,000 Poor Photo: Stephanie Kiriakopolos STATUS & TRENDS Inventories of eel- 4,000 BAY 1,000 0 2014 2013 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2003 flowering plant that grows in the subtidal and intertidal zone of the lower Estuary in San Francisco Bay. In the estuarine ecosystem, these beds of submerged aquatic vegetation provide shelter and food to pipefish, staghorn sculpin, three-spined stickleback and other small fishes, as well as long blades of sea grass upon which Pacific herring can lay their eggs. Diving and dabbling birds find a diverse buffet in eelgrass beds. Eelgrass also slows currents and traps sediment in the Estuary, reducing turbidity and buffering the shoreline. Although current eelgrass coverage of the Bay floor is limited, ecosystem planners hope these rich underwater meadows might one day be much more extensive. 5,000 Fair CONTEXT Eelgrass is an underwater ACRES OF EELGRASS INDICATOR The indicator for subtidal habitat health in San Francisco Bay is acreage of eelgrass beds. The benchmarks derive from the 2010 San Francisco Bay Subtidal Habitat Goals Report. The report set phased restoration goals for native eel- grass in the Bay. Scientists used a habitat suitability model to determine that under current conditions about 9% of the Bay floor could sustain eelgrass. Only 1% was covered at the time of report publication. The report set goals of increasing coverage by 25 acres within five years, 100 acres within 10 years, and up to 8,000 acres within 50 years (about 4% of the Bay). 29 EELGRASS B AY . . S TAT U S . . Poor . . . .T R E N D . . . . Mostly Improving .....BENCHMARK..... 3,800 acres by 2020 8,000 acres by 2060