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Large Scale Bay Grass Restoration Continues With Eelgrass Seed Collection
DNR’s Efforts Have Restored More Than 64 Acres of Bay Grasses in the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers
CRISFIELD, MD – Have you spotted someone collecting bay grasses? A concerned citizen recently called to report that someone was harvesting bay grass beds in Tangier Sound near Crisfield, MD. Turns out that the citizen saw Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Resource Assessment Service biologists collecting eelgrass seeds (a high-salinity type of by grass) with an aquatic plant harvester. Each summer, DNR collects eelgrass seeds in Tangier Sound near Crisfield, MD as part of its large scale bay grass restoration effort in the lower Potomac River.
Lack of seeds commonly prevents recolonization of important bay grass beds in areas of the Bay where water quality has improved sufficiently to support bay grasses. Establishing large beds using seeds collected from healthy beds elsewhere helps re-vegetation natural bay grass beds. This summer’s eelgrass seed collection efforts resulted in an estimated 5 million eelgrass seeds. In June, DNR planted some of the seeds in the Potomac River near St. George’s Island. The remainder of harvested seed material is being held through the summer in large tanks to allow for seeds to separate from non-seed material at DNR’s Piney Point Aquaculture Facility in St. Mary’s County. This fall, DNR will also plant those seeds in the Potomac River.
DNR began experimenting with large-scale eelgrass restoration projects in the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers in 2003. Since then, DNR’s collection efforts have seeded more than 64 acres of bay grasses at many locations the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers.
Bay grasses serve many important ecological roles such as improving water quality, providing food and shelter for other species as well as stabilizing sediment at the bottom of the water column. Water quality declines in the Chesapeake Bay due to excess nutrients and sediment has 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 Maryland.
DNR will continue to closely monitor both the effect, if any, on the health of the eelgrass beds from which the seeds are taken as well as the relative success of the different seeding techniques, the goal being to identify the most cost-effective large-scale restoration method to employ to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals.
To learn more about what you can do to help restore the Chesapeake Bay, visit http://www.DNR.Maryland.gov/volunteer.
Photos available at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/bay/sav/news/eelgrass_2007.asp.
July 19, 2007
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov