Seagrass has a number of important eco system functions including habitat for fish spawning, nutrient cycling, erosion protection and buffering of pollutants (Han et al. 2008). The eelgrass, Zostera marina L., has traditionally been used for a myriad of purposes in these North Atlantic coastal communities (Alm 2003). Unfortunately, During the 1930s, a widespread infection of the slime mold, Labryinthula spp., stopped the harvest of this plant species (Cottam 1934; Muhlstein 1989). The plant community rebounded shortly thereafter and was briefly used for the collection of a product called sea-felt. Fiberglass soon filled that cultural and economic niche and ended the wild harvest once again (Wyllie-Echeverria et al. 2000). Thereafter, the areas where the species had previously been protected for the harvest began to be developed and mismanaged.
The hopeful news is that there may be more uses, which will lead to conservation, for the troubled seagrass habitat areas the circumpolar North Atlantic. Ethnobotany plays a role in these cultural conservation mechanisms (Norton & Hannan 1997). Ethnobotany and paleo-ethnobotany of the species was explored through the archives and structured interviews throughout the North Atlantic. Based on these interviews, awareness raising about the cultural and ecological diversity of Z. marina and its habitat have already lead to preservation of historical work sites and habitat conservation in Nova Scotia (Wyllie-Echeverria et al. 2000).
Alm T. 2003. On the Uses of Zostera marina, Mainly in Norway Economic Botany. 57(4):640-45
Cottam, C., 1934. Eelgrass disappearance has serious effects on waterfowl and industry. pp 191-93 in US Department of Agriculture Yearbook of Agriculture ed by M.S. Eisenhower.
Han, Qiu-Ying; Shi, Ping. 2008. Progress in the study of seagrass ecology, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research for Sustainable Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 28(11):5561-5570.
Muhlstein, L. K., 1989. Perspectives on the wasting disease of eelgrass, Zostera marina. Diseases of Aquat. Organ. 7: 211-21
Norton B.G., Hannon B. 1997, Environmental Values: A place-based theory. Environ. Ethics 19: 227-45.
Wyllie-Echeverria, S., Arzel, P., Cox, P. A. 2000. Pacific Conservation Biology. 5:329-35