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Chesapeake Bay News

Aug
26
2009

Eelgrass Continues to Rebound in Lower Chesapeake Bay

Mid-season monitoring of underwater bay grasses in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay is showing beds of eelgrass and widgeon grass that are similar to or slightly denser and larger than 2008, reflecting continued recovery from a large-scale eelgrass die-off in 2005, according to updates from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).

Bay grasses, also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV, provide critical habitat for juvenile fish and molting blue crabs. Bay grasses also help improve the Bay’s health by adding oxygen to the water and reducing erosion.

Based on these mid-season observations, total bay grass acreage in the lower Bay is expected to be higher than in 2008, but still far below the peak seen in the 1990s, according to Dr. Robert Orth with VIMS. The Bay Program will release bay grass acreage figures for the entire Chesapeake Bay in spring.

Along the Bay’s western Virginia shore:

  • Dense beds of eelgrass are present in much of Mobjack Bay, the lower York River, Back River and Drum Island Flats. Eelgrass continues to recover in these areas.
  • Grasses remain absent or sparse in a number of areas, including the York River north of Gloucester Point and the Piankatank, Poquoson, Rappahannock and Great Wicomico rivers.

On the Eastern Shore:

  • Many areas appear similar to what was noted in 2008, including the Big Annemessex River, the Cape Charles area, and the large shallow water areas between Smith and Tangier Island.
  • Bay grasses appear to have increased in density in Occohannock Creek and in parts of western Pocomoke Sound.
  • Grasses remain absent in the Wicomico and Nanticoke rivers and much of the east and northern parts of Pocomoke Sound.

Read the full mid-summer monitoring report on VIMS’ SAV observation blog.


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