How do bay grasses help
Bay grasses or submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) are a group of rooted aquatic plants found throughout the shallow tidal and non-tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.- Bay grasses serve many essential functions in maintaining a healthy Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. They provide food for a variety of fish, shellfish, invertebrates and waterfowl and serve as shelter and nursery habitat for juvenile fish and crabs. Molting blue crabs, commonly referred to as “soft-shells,” are known to seek cover in grass beds during their time of vulnerability.
Bay grasses also improve the water quality in and around beds. During the process of photosynthesis, oxygen is released and plants utilize nutrients from the water column. In excess, these nutrients can lead to the growth of unwanted algae. The physical nature of the bay grass beds allow them to trap and anchor sediments that would otherwise become suspended and cloud the water or bury organisms living on the bottom. Lastly, the bay grass plant structures serve to reduce wave action that can cause the erosion of shorelines.
Bay grasses are a good measure of the overall condition of our Bay because they are not harvested, and their health is closely linked to water quality. Recent declines in water quality in the Bay - caused by excess nutrients and sediment – have caused significant losses of bay grass populations. Because of their importance, the restoration of bay grasses in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays is a priority for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and its partners.
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