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Underwater Grasses Bounce Back In Chesapeake Bay

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Widgeongrass has expanded into the saltier waters of the mid-Bay, a boon for aquatic life.
Chesapeake Bay Program
Widgeongrass has expanded into the saltier waters of the mid-Bay, a boon for aquatic life.

Scientists say an indicator of the Chesapeake Bay's health has reversed a three-year downward trend.

The news comes from the Chesapeake Bay Program's annual report on underwater vegetation in the bay. The program says the abundance of underwater grasses increased 24 percent between 2012 and 2013.

“The mid-Bay has seen a big rise in widgeongrass. In fact, the expansion of this species in the saltier waters between the Honga River and Pocomoke Sound was one of the driving factors behind the rise in bay grass abundance," says Robert J. Orth, Professor of Marine Science and Coordinator of the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Survey. "While widgeongrass is a boom and bust species, notorious for being incredibly abundant one year and entirely absent the next, its growth is nevertheless great to see.”

Another underwater plant known as eelgrass also saw a modest recovery.

Underwater grasses are considered critical to the bay ecosystem because they offer food to small invertebrates and migratory birds and shelter for young fish and blue crabs.

The Chesapeake Bay Program is the regional partnership leading the restoration of the bay. Its partner states include Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. Washington, D.C., is also a partner.

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