Another Good Year For Chesapeake Bay’s Underwater Grasses

2017-08-09T16:07:46+00:00 May 5, 2017|

(From Science Daily) — The increase makes 2016 the second consecutive year since VIMS began its aerial survey in 1984 that the baywide acreage of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) has reached a new high. A total of 97,433 acres of SAV were mapped in Chesapeake Bay during 2016.

Professor Robert “JJ” Orth, head of the SAV Monitoring and Restoration Program at VIMS, says “It was an impressive year, following on a previously impressive year. We are at numbers that we have not seen in — ever.”

The increase comes despite weather conditions and security restrictions that prevented acquisition of aerial imagery for portions of the Potomac River. “Even though we were unable to map a couple of areas that we know have a lot of SAV,” says Orth, “we are remarkably still above the 2015 baywide levels.”

David Wilcox, a GIS analyst in the SAV program at VIMS, notes that substituting 2015 data for the areas not mapped in 2016 would bring the baywide total to just short of 100,000 acres — 10,000 acres above the Bay Program’s interim restoration goal of 90,000 acres by 2017. And that estimate is “a little conservative,” says Wilcox, “since coverage everywhere else in that area increased from 2015 to 2016.”

Underwater bay grasses are critical to the Bay ecosystem. They provide habitat and nursery grounds for fish and blue crabs, serve as food for animals such as turtles and waterfowl, clear the water by reducing wave action, absorb excess nutrients, and reduce shoreline erosion. They are also an excellent measure of the Bay’s overall condition because their health is closely linked to water quality.

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