High-quality habitat conditions are vital to this outcome’s success. Shallow waters (at depths of two meters or less) must meet water clarity, salinity and quality conditions sufficient for targeted grass species. The Chesapeake Bay is considered at high-risk for sea level rise and increased water temperatures resulting from climate change, which will influence habitat conditions. However, certain management approaches can alleviate some climate stressors: minimizing the hardening of shorelines can allow grasses to migrate inland as water levels rise, while planting heat-tolerant grass species can help beds withstand temperature changes. Bottom disturbance by rays and herbivory by waterfowl can also limit the success of restoration work.
Human activities like fishing, dredging, propeller scarring and the introduction of invasive species can disturb the growth of underwater grasses. The indirect effects of shoreline alteration, sedimentation and water quality degradation can also harm grass health. Human activities can be managed through education, outreach and regulation.
Planting and seeding efforts in the region have seen limited success because of habitat and water quality stressors. Bottom disturbance and herbivory have also limited the success of this work. Even in ideal habitat with limited human impacts, the availability of source seeds, plants and propagules and the survival rates of targeted species play a role in restoration success. Continued seed and propagule research will expand our knowledge base, keep expert staff in agencies and at institutions, and provide opportunities for public education and involvement.
Factors Influencing Progress
A range of factors—including habitat conditions, human impacts and restoration science—impact the Chesapeake Bay Program’s ability to increase the habitat benefits of submerged aquatic vegetation by achieving and sustaining 185,000 acres of underwater grasses Bay-wide.