Underwater bay grasses covered nearly 65,000 acres of the Bay and its tidal rivers in 2007, about 35 percent of the 185,000-acre baywide restoration goal. Though a 10 percent increase from 59,000 acres in 2006, bay grasses have not yet recovered to the recent high of 90,000 acres in 2002.
In the upper Bay zone (from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge north), bay grasses covered about 19,000 acres -- 80 percent of the 23,630-acre goal and an increase from about 15,500 acres in 2006.
In the middle Bay zone (from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Potomac River), bay grass acreage decreased slightly to about 30,000 acres -- 26 percent of the 115,229-acre restoration goal.
In the lower Bay zone (from the Potomac River south), researchers mapped about 16,000 acres of grasses -- an increase from a record low of 13,000 acres in 2006 and 35 percent of the 46,030-acre restoration goal.
Over the past five to 10 years, scientists have witnessed large increases in bay grasses in many freshwater tributaries and segments of the Bay. But many middle- and high-salinity areas, such as Eastern Bay and Tangier Sound, are well below their peaks.
Annual bay grass acreage estimates are an indication of the Bay's response to pollution control efforts, such as implementation of agricultural best management practices (BMPs) and upgrades to wastewater treatment plants. Bay watershed residents can do their part to help bay grasses by reducing their use of lawn fertilizers, which contribute excess nutrients to local waterways and the Bay.
Bay grasses acreage is estimated through an aerial survey, which is flown from late spring to early fall. For additional information about the aerial survey and survey results, go to www.vims.edu/bio/sav/.