What are bay grasses?
Bay grasses, or submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), are a critical component of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. They provide oxygen for aquatic organisms, absorb nutrients, reduce shoreline erosion, and provide food for waterfowl and habitat for blue crabs and finfish.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has put a lot of effort into restoring bay grass populations in the Chesapeake. Eelgrass seeds harvested in Crisfield each May are distributed on the lower Potomac River – 33 acres have been seeded to date. Recent monitoring found abundant eelgrass patches in several restoration sites that are themselves producing seeds, which will fuel future expansion. In the middle portion of the Bay, DNR biologists are experimenting with different seed mixtures of widgeon grass, redhead and sago pondweed.
In addition, each year 150 schools grow wild celery and redhead grass as part of the Bay Grasses in Classes program. Students from 15 counties and Baltimore City have helped restore five acres of SAV by planting their classroom-raised grasses in the Back River.
Water quality ultimately controls bay grass restoration. Grasses cannot survive in turbid, algae-filled waters. While we are well short of our 180,000-acre goal, DNR strives to restore as much bay grass as possible by focusing on unvegetated areas with adequate habitat conditions.