Partnering for Success in Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)
Research, Restoration, and Education in the Chesapeake Bay
Freshwater SAV Partnership, Chesapeake Research Consortium, Edgewater, MD
Rebecca M. Thur (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Introduction Why Focus on Freshwater SAV? Partnership Mission
Freshwater, tidal fresh, and oligohaline (0.5 – 5 ppt salinity) species of SAV are particularly At its inception in the fall of 2002, the Freshwater (FW) SAV Partnership outlined its mission to
Historically, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries were host to expansive meadows of
imperiled because of their position in the headwaters of the estuary, near the sources of expand current knowledge and research on:
submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). But by the 1970’s, the coverage of SAV in the Bay had
major nutrient, contaminant, and sediment inputs. In addition to being at greater risk,
dropped from above 80,000 to below 16,000 hectares. This drastic decline has been 1) basic biology, physiology, and ecology of freshwater, tidal fresh, and oligohaline SAV;
freshwater species are arguably the most critical component of the Chesapeake Bay SAV
attributed to a combination of long-term deterioration of water quality, disease, and the 2) new approaches to propagating and restoring these taxa.
community. They are the Bay’s first line of defense, intercepting and filtering nutrients and
scouring effect of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. While SAV has gradually rebounded in recent
trapping sediments before they can reach and impact more saline areas. Without this buffer, With support from the U.S. Army Environmental Center, the CRC is overseeing activities of the
decades (Fig. 1), its current coverage is still far below historic levels, as well as the new
excessive nutrients can lead to algal blooms, anoxia, and epiphyte growth on halotolerant FW SAV Partnership, currently comprised of 20 Federal and State agencies, academic
restoration goal of approximately 75,000 hectares set by the Chesapeake Bay Program in the
SAV species. Hence, increases in freshwater SAV coverage can enhance not only the institutions, and other non-governmental organizations (listed in gray box, center).
2003, following adoption of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.
immediate habitat in which they live, but also have significant positive impacts on water
90,000 quality, eutrophication, and productivity in downstream portions of the Bay. Partnership Activities
The FW SAV Partnership has demonstrated through several collaborative activities that the
SAV Cover (hectares) .
70,000 benefits of forming or joining a partnership can be productive, and the results, positive (see
Partnership Members below). In this way, the Partnership continues to act as a visible advocate for and facilitator of
freshwater aquatic vegetation restoration and the important role that it plays in reaching the
2004 Release Pending from CBP
50,000 Chesapeake Research Consortium
Bay-wide goal of restoring 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) of Bay grasses by the year 2010.
The Johns Hopkins University
Old Dominion University Restoration/Monitoring (a) Figure 4.
Penn State University Institutes of the Environment Partnership members have continued (a) An outdoor SAV grow-
20,000 out tank containing
Smithsonian Institution to conduct their independent work, as
1988 No Data
mature water stargrass
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies well as to initiate cooperative, multi- (Heteranthera dubia) at
U.S. Army installation,
0 Virginia Institute of Marine Science partner SAV plantings (Fig. 4) and Aberdeen Proving
proposals (see bottom). Partners are Grounds (APG).
Year also pursuing laboratory research, (b) (b) This and 3 other species
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay of SAV grown in APG
Anne Arundel Community College measuring water quality parameters, tanks were harvested for
Figure 1. SAV cover in the Chesapeake Bay from 1984 – 2004 (1 hectare = 2.471 acres). The “Historic” bar a multi-partner planting
Chesapeake Bay Foundation and mapping SAV coverage though
(blue) represents a composite of maximum Baywide SAV coverage experienced from the 1930s to 1971, effort in the Bush River in
prior to decline. Note the recovery period observed from 1984 to 1993, following initial efforts to improve aerial and groundtruthing surveys. August of 2004. Photos
water quality. The 2010 restoration goal (yellow bar) of approximately 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) was Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve,
by R. Thur, CRC.
established in April 2003. Actual SAV cover (green bars) is now determined annually from the Virginia Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) aerial survey data. Restoration Handbook
Harford Community College In addition to on-the-ground activities, Partnership efforts
Important Roles of SAV Harford County Parks & Recreation, Anita C. Leight Estuary Center have resulted in the completion of a comprehensive SAV
Acts as a primary indicator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Chesapeake Bay Office restoration handbook (Fig. 5). for both Department of
Bay’s water quality; U.S. Army, Aberdeen Proving Ground Defense installations in the Chesapeake Bay Basin (84
Provides nursery habitat, food, and U.S. Army Environmental Center total), and for the larger restoration community.
refuge for fish, shellfish, and blue crabs U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center Partnership members were instrumental in presenting
Figure 5. The SAV Restoration Handbook,
(Fig. 2); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service jointly authored by several FW SAV and demonstrating the restoration and monitoring
Protects and stabilizes nearshore U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chesapeake Bay Office
Partnership members and published by concepts described in the handbook to DoD personnel at
Horne Engineering, will be a valuable
environments from erosion by baffling resource to the DoD community as more an interactive workshop held in November of 2004. The
Figure 2. Mating blue crabs found in a bed of redhead U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office
wave energy; grass (Potomogeton perfoliatus). Studies have shown installations become involved in SAV handbook is scheduled for release in summer of 2005.
that blue crab numbers can be up to 30 times higher in
U.S. Geological Survey restoration and monitoring.
Filters and traps sediments in the SAV beds than in bare areas. Photo by P. Bergstrom,
water column, increasing water clarity NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. Website and Headwaters Newsletter
The Partnership website (www.chesapeake.org/SAV/partnershiphome.html) has become a valuable
and light penetration (Fig. 3);
tool for partner organizations and other interested parties by providing an outlet for rapid distribution
Removes toxins and nutrients, such
of FW SAV information, such as online and printed reference materials, funding opportunities,
as nitrogen and phosphorus, from the
current and past restoration project summaries, conference and workshop announcements, and
Oxygenates the surrounding water, Why a Partnership? contact information for area SAV experts and supply vendors.
In January 2005, the Partnership also began issuing a
which is highly beneficial to other Despite its clear importance, scientific information about freshwater SAV species is lacking quarterly newsletter that features partner-involved restoration
aquatic life, through photosynthesis; compared to that available for more halotolerant species. Progress in the areas of research and restoration projects, lists upcoming funding
Provides a nutritious food source freshwater SAV research and restoration had been occurring on a small scale through the deadlines and conferences, provides citations for newly
(grasses and seeds) for native and efforts of individual agencies with finite resources and multiple missions. In response to published peer reviewed journal articles and other literature of
migratory waterfowl species; increasing interest in addressing the freshwater SAV knowledge gap, the Chesapeake interest to the FW community, and highlights noteworthy local,
Figure 3. Aerial photograph taken in 2001 over the upper Research Consortium (CRC) was asked to form a collaborative partnership to provide a
Produces detritus as it decomposes, regional, and national SAV issues. Each issue of Headwaters
Patuxent River, MD. The ebb tide causes a plume of
clearer water to move offshore, out of the fringing SAV means by which funding, research, restoration, and propagation projects, as well as is available for download as a PDF or MS Word file on the
which serves as a valuable food source
bed, where it mixes with the much more turbid channel outreach efforts, could be leveraged, pooled, and coordinated. “News & Current Projects” page of the Partnership website.
for zooplankton. water. Photo from VIMS aerial survey.
Collaborative Proposals Submitted: Weir Cove Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Restoration Project, to FishAmerica Foundation and NOAA Restoration Center (5/04); Bush River Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Restoration Project, to NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (7/04); Continued
Development and Coordination of DoD Installation Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Programs in the Chesapeake Bay, to U.S. Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program (8/04), and to U.S. Army Environmental Center (9/04)*; Demonstrating Cross-Habitat Restoration Methods with
Engineered Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) and Emergent Vegetation (EV) Combined Habitats in the Chesapeake Bay, to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (3/05)** (*Indicates successful submission, **Indicates award decision pending )