Chesapeake Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Increased Eight Percent in 2016, According to Bay Program and VIMS Annual Survey Results Released in April 2017

In late April 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) reported that the acreage of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) in the Bay (also called “underwater grasses” or “Bay grasses”) reached 97,433 acres in 2016, an increase of eight percent from 2015.  This continued a string of annual increases since 2012; for example, the increase from 2014 to 2015 was 21 percent.

The 2016 Baywide coverage of SAVs was the largest in the history of the annual aerial survey, which began in 1984.

According to the Bay Program’s news release, “Experts attribute the rise in underwater grass abundance to a strong increase in the tidal freshwater and moderately salty regions of the Bay, with Widgeon Grass in particular expanding in the latter region.  However, because widgeon grass is a “boom and bust” species—its abundance can rise and fall from year to year—a widgeon-dominant spike is not guaranteed to persist in future seasons.”

SAV chart

Chart of Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) from 1984 to 2016, based on the annual aerial survey by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  Graph from More than 97,000 acres of underwater grasses recorded in Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News, 4/27/17.

Sources:
More than 97,000 acres of underwater grasses recorded in Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News, 4/27/17.
Survey: another good year for Bay’s underwater grasses, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 4/26/17.

Some news accounts on the 2017 survey:
Underwater grasses up 8%; acreage is highest in decades, Bay Journal, 4/27/17.
VIMS: Chesapeake Bay sees another record year in underwater grass abundance, Daily Press, 4/27/17.

For more information on Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation:
Chesapeake Bay Program/Chesapeake STAT, “Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV),” online at http://www.chesapeakeprogress.com/abundant-life/vital-habitats/sav (as of 5/25/17).

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “SAV in Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Bays,” online at http://web.vims.edu/bio/sav/index.html (as of 5/25/17).

VIMS, “SAV Coverage in Chesapeake Bay 2016,” online at https://infogr.am/copy_sav_area_by_salinity_zone (as of 5/25/17).  This site has interactive charts on Bay SAV by salinity zone in 2016.

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