Maryland Department of Natural Resources Bay RestorationPhoto of seeds and a large blue crab
Other Projects
sav icon Tangier Sound Project
sav icon Bay Grass Scarring
sav icon Ft. Meade Lab Activities
sav icon Water Chestnut Harvest
sav icon Bay Grass Mapping
sav icon Blossom Point Project
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Other Bay Grass Projectsline

Tangier Sound Project
The Tangier Sound region is an extremely important area of the Chesapeake Bay and has historically been home to the Bay’s largest bay grass beds. These beds are critical to the Bay’s health because they produce oxygen, reduce wave action, reduce erosion, absorb nutrients and trap sediments. They also provide food and habitat for fish and shellfish, and have been specifically identified by the Blue Crab Fisheries Management Plan as critical to the survival of the Blue Crab. Except for a modest increase in 1999, the overall decrease in SAV acreage since 1992 through 1999 marks at least a 40% decline (preliminary numbers). While current declines in SAV acreage are dramatic, these losses pale in comparison when viewed in the historical context. Based on Tier 2 (1 meter depth contour) and Tier 3 (2 meter depth contour) criteria, the Tangier area contains nearly 37,000 (Tier 2) and nearly 57,000 acres (Tier 3) of potential habitat as opposed to the 10,618 acres currently vegetated. MD-DNR is working with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to synthesize the results from several historical, and current regional data collection efforts to better explain the decline in bay grass populations in the Tangier Sound area and the implications for management actions.


hydraulic clam scarring on SAV

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Bay Grass Scarring Project
In 1997, interpretation of the aerial photography taken for the annual seagrass survey revealed an alarming trend. Seagrass beds were being heavily scarred by commercial fishing and recreational boating. The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill in 1998 to curb the fishery impact on the seagrasses. This legislation effectively removes commercial fishing pressures from the seagrass beds, and the Department of Natural Resources will monitor the recovery of seagrass beds impacted by commercial fishing over time. In addition, beginning in the summer of 1998, the Department of Natural Resources undertook a study to determine the extent of damage caused by recreational boating to seagrasses, and to propose management activities to minimize this damage. This work is ongoing. Annual aerial surveys and on-the-ground random quadrangle sampling, indicate that recreational boating affects density of seagrass beds, particularly in areas near jetski livery operations and waterfront bars. However, several of the owners of these establishments have voluntarily taken steps to reduce the overall intensity of the scarring activities. These include marking channels to concentrate activity to relatively small areas (have a small area of intense impact versus large areas of more diffuse impacts) and providing alternatives to boaters wishing to anchor. Currently there is no information on the effectiveness of these efforts, the Department will continue to monitor these areas to ascertain if there is any long-term benefit to these strategies, and perhaps incorporate similar ideas into a forthcoming Water Management Plan.

a photo of the Fort Meade Laboratory Fort Meade Laboratory Activities
The DNR operates a laboratory at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Science Center on the grounds of the Fort George G. Meade Army installation. The bay grass lab at Ft. Meade has been used since 1998 to experiment with indoor growth and propagation techniques and for raising bay grasses. The goal is to develop simple procedures to allow mass production of bay grasses for transplanting and restoration activities. Micropropagation techniques and turion production methods are also being perfected to increase the survival of transplants used in restoration. Currently, research is being conducted on: redhead grass (Potamogeton perfoliatus), sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), and wild celery (Vallisneria americana).

Water Chestnut Harvest
a photo of Water Chestnut Water chestnut, (trapa natans), is an invasive exotic floating plant species recently rediscovered in the Upper Chesapeake Bay. While open water beds of water chestnut can be removed by mechanical harvesters, hand picking is required to eliminate plants from shoreline areas. Volunteer efforts typically occur in late June. For more information, contact Mark Lewandowski at the Department of Natural Resources (410)260-8630 or mlewandowski@dnr.state.md.us.

Bay Grasses Mapping Project
Current bay grass restoration goals are based upon information collected between 1971 and 1990. Since large-scale declines occurred in the late 1960's and early 1970's, current bay grass restoration goals may not accurately reflect the restoration potential in the Chesapeake Bay. Suitable aerial photography collected between 1930-1960 has been uncovered which can provide pre-decline bay grass distributions in the Chesapeake Bay.
Objectives of this project include:
1) Identifying, and digitizing aerial photography archives for imagery of the littoral zones in the tidal portions of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. These beds will represent an historical, pre-decline benchmark of a healthy bay grass community in these regions of the Chesapeake Bay.
2) To combine the Maryland historic bay grass distributions with Virginia historic surveys to develop a comprehensive baywide reference dataset using a computer-based GIS (ArcInfo).
3) To use the Baywide historical bay grass dataset and water clarity criteria to develop methods and criteria for new bay grass restoration acreage goals for the entire Bay and each of its tidal tributaries as well as bay segment-based designated use attainment status.

Blossom Point Project
There is a dearth of information regarding the effects of breakwaters (both construction effects and presence in the water) on bay grasses. There are several reasons to expect that breakwaters can positively influence bay grass beds. Obviously, any vegetation within the foot print of a breakwater project would be lost as the construction of the structure takes place (US Army Corps of Engineers, 1981). In addition, changes in hydrography, and the resultant change in sediment dynamics, could alter coverage. Accretion of sediment in the lee and scour on the exposed side (US Army Corps of Engineers, 1984; US Army Corps of Engineers, 1992; Hsu et al., 1993; US Army Corps of Engineers, 1998) of a breakwater can either smother or erode away bay grasses, reducing coverage. Conversely, a breakwater will create more quiescent wave energy environments in the lee of the structure that can be conducive to bay grass colonization and an increase in coverage (Roseboom et al., 1989; Blama, 1993; Davis and Landin, 1997; Dan et al., 1998; Allen et al., 1999). In a study of 20 breakwater projects in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, the effects of the presence of breakwaters on bay grass coverage were analyzed. Overall, the coverage in a given area of the Chesapeake Bay appears to be driven by region-wide processes and that the presence of a breakwater does little to change bay grass coverage trends as identified by annual aerial survey. In Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) segments that have increasing bay grass coverage, the areas in the immediate vicinity of the breakwater usually show a concurrent increase. Conversely, if a CBP segment is showing a decline in coverage over time, the areas adjacent to a breakwater show similar decreases as well. There are eight exceptions to this. Three breakwaters showed a localized positive effects (more bay grass in the vicinity of the breakwater after construction relative to the surrounding Chesapeake Bay Program segment), possibly due to the structure providing a refuge against waves or other disturbance (Blama, 1993). However five breakwaters had negative effects (less bay grass after construction relative to the surrounding CBP segment). In all eight of these cases, the effects of the breakwaters were weak. Even with these exceptions, bay grass coverage in the vicinity of a breakwater seems to track coverage with the surrounding CBP segments, though possibly at different relative rates. However, this study did not consider changes in bay grass density, species composition or biomass in the vicinity of a breakwater project.


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