Importance of underwater grasses in the Bay

Introduction Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVE) are plants that have adapted to live within aquatic environments (DON 2011). SAVE are able to float in the water and move with the currents because they contain specialized cells called rematch that provide buoyancy and they lack the more rigid structures of most terrestrial plants (DON 2011). Many different species of SAVE are found throughout estuarine waters worldwide and there are seventeen species of SAVE that are commonly found throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries (VIM’S 2010).

SAVE is found throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Importance of SAVE SAVE is very important in helping maintain the health of the Chesapeake Bays ecosystem since it provides food for many species of finish, shellfish, and other invertebrates in the Bay (DON 2011). SAVE beds provide protection from predators, while providing a rich foraging habitat for organisms such as fish. By foraging in SAVE, fish are able to consume more prey because SAVE supports vast quantities of small fish and other invertebrates (Rosa and Odium 1988).

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This may lead to higher fecundity and growth rates along with lower mortality rates for the fish, although this has yet to be thoroughly studied (Rosa and Odium 1988). SAVE also releases oxygen during photosynthesis, which is utilized by underwater organisms such as fish and crabs (DON 2011). Bay grasses inhibit wave action that causes eroding of shorelines and they also filter and trap sediments from the water column that would otherwise bury small organisms and cloud the water column (DON 2011). SAVE is also a great barometer of water quality in the Bay (VIM’S 2010).

SAVE beds filter polluted runoff and uptake nitrogen and phosphorus that can lead to harmful algal blooms that impair water quality (VIM’S 2010). Based on my experience while performing SAVE surveys, it as apparent that areas with cloudy water, shoreline erosion and higher pollution also had a lower abundance of SAVE. Others have noted the relationship between pollution and SAVE abundance (COB 2011). The Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently reported that SAVE appear to be thriving in locations in which pollution has been reduced, the upper Potomac River and Susquehanna Flats (COB 2011). So, in cleaner areas, SAVE abundance should be higher.

SAVE diversity may also contribute to improving water quality, although the topic has not been studied extensively. Diversity is important because different plants do things differently in terms of their ability to help trap sediments, slow down currents, provide different levels of oxygen and their ability to withstand different water temperatures and salinity levels. If one plant is too thin and light to trap suspended sediments, a thicker plant can trap the sediments to allow the maximum amount of light penetration in the water. So, the cleaner the area is, the more likely it is that SAVE will be able to thrive.

There are many different threats to aquatic grasses in the Bay. Poor water quality is directly linked to the depletion of SAVE populations (SIS’S 2008). One of the major hearts affecting growth of SAVE is poor water clarity, due to a combination of increased suspended sediment and persistent algal blooms (SIS’S 2008). The United States Geological Survey Science (SIS’S) analyzed factors influencing water clarity and found that the most important factor affecting water clarity is total suspended solids, which includes both organic matter and inorganic solids (SIS’S 2008).

This impacts SAVE abundance because the organic and inorganic solids decrease the amount of light reaching the SAVE, leading to inefficient photosynthesis (SIS’S 2003). The suspended solids decrease water clarity, allowing less light to reach SAVE. Thus water clarity is essential to SAVE growth because more sunlight leads to a greater generation of energy by photosynthesis (SIS’S 2003). SAVE may also be threatened by human activities, such as dredging, marine construction, and boating (Reformative and Lewis 2006).

The potential effects of dredging on the marine environment include effects of the dredging process itself (removal of substratum from the seafloor) as well as effects caused by the process of disposal of dredge material (Reformative and Lewis 2006). These affect water clarity because sediments may come into suspension from dredging, but also overflow from dredge barges, or leakage from hydrological dredging pipelines, during transport from the dredge and disposal site, can also impact SAVE (Reformative and Lewis 2006).

The effects on water clarity from marine construction and boating are similar to the effects of dredging. Marine construction and boating impact water clarity by resubmission and disturbance of bottom sediments (Reformative and Lewis 2006). Boat propeller turbulence in shallow waters can produce a significant increase in light attenuation (I. . , reduce light penetration) by increasing suspended sediments (Reformative and Lewis 2006). Boats with a hull that skims across the water, known as a planning hull, produce the maximum increase in the resubmission of bottom sediments when operating at high speeds (Klein 2007).

While some types of boats cause a disturbance to SAVE, not all boats are harmful to SAVE. Those who need to work in shallow waters know that a boat type to fit the water depth to minimize disturbance of SAVE. Boats with small engines such as pontoons can be used in shallow waters because they draft less than two feet. This should allow someone to work in depths as shallow as approximately 2. 5 feet. If the depths become shallower than 2. 5 feet, kayaks can be used to complete the survey in that area so that SAVE is not impacted. Biological interactions can also present threats to SAVE (COB 2011).

One such species is the mute swan, which eats significant amounts of SAVE and can even deplete entire beds in some areas (COB 2011). Water chestnut, an invasive aquatic plant, floats upon the water’s surface and blocks sunlight from reaching the submerged grasses, leading to depletion of SAVE (COB 2011). Dense algal blooms rough about by excess nutrients also affect SAVE because they reduce sunlight and dissolved oxygen (U. S. PWS). The algae may also grow directly upon the leaves of the SAVE, further reducing sunlight and leading to SAVE depletion (U.

S. PWS). Algae reduce oxygen levels during the decay process; after the bloom, the algae sinks to the bottom, decays, and the decomposing bacteria deplete dissolved oxygen from the have been implemented to protect them. SAVE protection involves state and federal agencies, as well as private firms and volunteer groups working together to protect SAVE. Policies and Regulations that Help Protect SAVE Policies and regulations have been implemented to help protect SAVE habitats from human-based activities that are a major threat to SAVE.

SAVE has had increased protection since the enactment of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CAW) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (CUP 1995). Permit applications to perform services such as dredging and marine construction are reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers (CEO), U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (CUFFS), and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in additional to local Jurisdictions (CUP 1995). Each of these agencies has their own standards when it comes to permitting dredging or marine construction.

For instance, the state of Maryland restricts new dredging of channels where water depths are less than 3 feet, whereas the EPA rules say no new dredging unless it occurs in a historic channel (CUP 1995). SAVE usually inhabits shallow waters, so dredging in shallow waters is prohibited for this reason (CUP 1995). Maryland is in charge during dredging and filling activities and construction activities in tidal wetlands and shallow water areas in the state of Maryland, while the EPA reviews remits under the Clean Water and Rivers and Harbors Acts (CUP 1995).

EPA and the state of Maryland also set timing restrictions as to when dredging can occur; most dredging is prohibited between the end of March and the end of June (CUP 1995). This restricts disturbance of SAVE during its growing season. The CEO policy for new marina development avoids historical SAVE beds and maintains a buffer for marina expansion between the proposed location and known SAVE beds (CUP 1995). There are many other policies and regulations that go along with obligations associated with permits for dredging and marine construction services. These policies reflect the importance of SAVE to the Bay.

New policies or agreements are implemented to protect SAVE when previous policies are not working or enhancement of previous policies is needed to meet specified goals. Policies also change in response to data because our understanding of benefits from SAVE and risks to SAVE changes with data. The 2000 Chesapeake Bay agreements were developed to respond to the many issues facing the Bays ecosystem (DON N. D. ). One of the sections in the agreement was created for the protection, preservation, and restoration of vital habitats and natural areas, which re essential for the survival of the living resources of the Chesapeake (DON N.

D. ). One of the habitats included in the agreement was SAVE. For instance, because Bay grasses were experiencing significant losses, the Chesapeake 2000 Bay Agreement called for restoration of 114,000 acres of SAVE (DON N. D. ). This goal was then changed three years later to increase extent of SAVE restoration/protection to 185,000 acres of Saves be protected and restored by 2010 (DON N. D. ). These new restoration goals reflected historic abundances, measured as density and acreage, from the sass’s through 2002 (CUP 2000).

The densities and acreages are tracked from the data that SAVE were mapped in the Bay; this extent represented 48% of the 2010 restoration goal (VIM’S 2003). SAVE abundance fluctuated between 2002 and 2006, and then increased the following three years with a total of 85,914 acres of SAVE mapped in 2009 (VIM’S 2010). The amount mapped in 2009 represented about 46% of the 2010 restoration goal; in 2010 there were fewer total acres of SAVE than what was found in 2002. Although SAVE abundance in 2009 was still far away from the set goal, there is still some optimism for SAVE because increases in SAVE abundance occurred for three straight years.

The data collected from state, local, and federal agencies, volunteer groups, and private firms all help in determining how close we are in reaching restoration goals. For example, the SAVE surveys that I helped complete during my internship in 2009 with Bland Consultants were mapped out and the data was compiled and analyzed and submitted to VIM’S for incorporation into their annual SAVE report. These data were included in the overall abundance found in 2009, which helped determine how close we were in reaching the SAVE restoration goal.

Although there are several private companies that help complete ground SAVE surveys wrought the Chesapeake, none are specifically acknowledged in the annual reports provided by VIM’S (VIM’S 2010). The ground surveys are used in conjunction with the aerial photography provided by government agencies (VIM’S 2010). State and federal agencies and local governments such as Baltimore County, DON, and EPA determine which areas are to be surveyed; these agencies also help complete ground surveys (VIM’S 2010).

The private sector is financed by federal and state agencies (VIM’S 2010). The monitoring of SAVE can help determine whether a policy is working, which is why it is important that federal and state agencies work together with the riveter sector to assure that each area is thoroughly surveyed. Economic Costs of Protecting and Restoring SAVE SAVE restoration is required to meet the 2010 goals and restoration is expensive. Although restoration methods have improved over the years, SAVE planting remains an extremely labor intensive and costly endeavor (CEO 2005).

In order to meet targeted SAVE restoration goals, significant investments in research is needed to improve the knowledge surrounding restoration strategies, especially cost-effective meaner for large-scale restoration (CEO 2005). A CEO report on large scale restoration n the Bay estimated that hand planting adult eelgrass plants in the Potomac River would approximately cost $25,592 per acre (CEO 2008). The revised Bay agreement from April 15, 2003 called for 1,000 acres to be planted throughout the Bay, which is trivial in light of the overall 185,000 acre goal that was to be reached by 2010 (CEO 2005).

Even if only 50 acres were to be planted in the Potomac, the cost would be $1,279,600. Only planting the 1,000 acres would cost tens of millions of dollars but this effort only accounts for this one-specific restoration project. Including the many there SAVE restoration/protection projects/plans such as ones specifically for improving water clarity, protecting existing SAVE beds, and enhancing education about SAVE, the economic costs would be astronomical. The Bay is a regional resource and national treasure, therefore its restoration is important, but the high costs require a different/creative way in getting the Job done.

Private companies have been engaged in supporting government agencies to ameliorate the stresses put on SAVE. Companies such as Bland, assist the government in protecting SAVE by performing Jobs such as monitoring grass rangelands and conducting SAVE surveys. Depending on the project, the private company may either be hired by the state or government agency that overseas the project, or the private company may be a third party hired by the contractor that is working on the project. For instance, a grass transplanting project monitored by Bland occurred at the Isle of Wight in Worcester County in 2002 (Shafer 2008).

A shoreline protection project occurred at the Isle of Wight in 2003, but before the construction and dredging could start, SAVE had to be removed where the proposed construction was going to occur (Shafer 2008). This provided an opportunity to use a new grass transplanting system so that the SAVE that would have likely been damaged during dredging and construction could be relocated to a new area where SAVE was absent (Shafer 2008). During this Job Bland helped design an independent monitoring program to monitor success of SAVE that was transplanted to a new area at the Isle of Wight.

This project could be considered a small scale SAVE restoration project. Bland completed a Monitoring Report in January 2005 and was contracted to continue to monitor the site through 2008 (Bland Consultants & Designers, Inc. 2005). The transplanting system used for this restoration project was designed by Grasses Recovery Inc. And was new in the United States at this time (Shafer 2008). The system involved the removal, transport, and subsequent replanting of large planting units of intact SAVE, complete with roots, rhizomes, and associated sediments (Shafer 2008).

This method differs from planting individual planting units by hand. Planting individual units manually may be successful at times, but it is extremely labor intensive and costly and involves even smaller scale transplanting of around tens or hundreds of square meters (Shafer 2008). Smaller scale projects similar to the one at the Isle of Wight had been deemed successful in Australia. The study in Australia demonstrated that the planting success of large sods of grasses was greater than that of individual planting units especially in high wave-energy environments (Shafer 2008).

The results at the Isle of Wight indicated that the survival rate for the Sisters was high, around 93% post-planting (Shafer 2008). Natural reconciliation processes occurred during monitoring and demonstrated the creation of numerous small patches of eel-grass throughout the area, which suggested that site conditions were favorable for continued growth and expansion of the transplanted SAVE (Bland Consultants & Designers, Inc. 2005). The natural recruitment expanded outside the boundaries where the original planting units were transplanted.

In the transplanting system, adult plants are used instead of seedlings which are usually used for large scale projects; this avoided high mortality seen in most restoration projects when seedlings fail to develop into adult plants (VIM’S N. D. ). Recent evidence suggests that physical factors such as waves and currents remove many young seedlings before they can develop (VIM’S N. D. ). The success using the strategy implemented at the Isle of Wight could be used for other related projects.

This suggests that more projects similar to the one at the Isle of Wight should be to assist government agencies in restoration/protection of SAVE. Bland performs about 50 SAVE surveys annually throughout the upper and central Chesapeake Bay. The purpose of the SAVE surveys are to document locations of existing beds to ensure proposed waterway improvement projects like, dredging, offshore breakwaters, living shorelines, and the construction of bulkheads and piers avoid SAVE habitats or at least minimizes impacts to SAVE.

The data collected by Bland during their SAVE surveys include parameters such as species names, the density of the grass in a particular bed, water depth, and the number of different species located in that same bed. As described earlier, this data is entered into their geographic information system (GIS), which is submitted to the county and is then eventually sent to VIM’S to be incorporated into their annual SAVE reports. The annual SAVE reports from VIM’S were developed in 1984 to monitor the distribution and abundance of SAVE.

This data can e used to regulate and monitor the success of implemented restoration projects, which help aide the success of reaching SAVE restoration goals (Wilcox et al. 2009). The data from the reports can then be used by government agencies to analyze and compare with historical data, which will allow them to develop methods and criteria for new SAVE restoration acreage goals for the entire Bay and each of its tidal tributaries (Moore et al. 2004). SAVE surveys may be used for other purposes as well. One such purpose is to carefully assess the relationship between dredging and SAVE.

Dredging causes direct and indirect impacts to SAVE. The physical removal of SAVE during dredging is direct, whereas the reduction in light penetration and burial that is a result of the turbidity plumes and sedimentation created by the dredge are indirect impacts (NOAA 2008). The surveys become very important during the permitting process for dredging projects. Permitting is regulated by state and federal agencies (NOAA 2008). Data collected from historical pre- and post-dredge SAVE surveys provide information about the physical impacts of dredging on SAVE (NOAA 2008).

The well documented impact of dredging on SAVE has led to SAVE being laced in the special considerations section during the permit review process (NOAA 2008). The conservation recommendations and best management practices (Bumps) for dredging include avoiding dredging in areas with SAVE, areas which historically supported SAVE, and areas which have potential for reconciliation by SAVE (NOAA 2008). The Bumps for SAVE protection also include reviewing historic surveys of the area and pre-dredge surveys because of the spatial and temporal dynamics of SAVE (NOAA 2008).

Having the current SAVE data prior to the start of the dredging project helps the agencies determine where the actual dredging will occur and which areas need to be protected and monitored. The areas where SAVE is found, areas that could be directly or indirectly impacted, are the likely places where post-dredge monitoring would occur. Post-dredge survey data is analyzed to assess the impacts on SAVE from the dredging process. Bland has performed many pre- and post-dredge surveys providing data to government agencies so that they can develop conservation recommendations for dredging projects.

The recommendations will ultimately be placed in the special considerations section of the permit for the dredging project. The Main Creek dredging project in Pasadena, MD required a permit application for the dredging project. The applicant for the permit was the Anne Roundel County CACHED had to obtain a water quality certification in accordance with Section 401 of the Clean Water Act from the MED, as well as certify that the proposed work would be in compliance with the Maryland Coastal Zone Program (CEO-B. D. 2008). The purpose of the dredging was to improve navigable access to residential piers

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