SAV Home > Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) in Chesapeake Bay

Why is SAV important?

  • SAV is one of the best barometers of the water quality.
  • SAV beds filter polluted runoff, provide food for waterfowl, and provide habitat for blue crabs, juvenile rockfish (striped bass), and other aquatic species.
  • SAV beds are associated with clear water, and their presence helps improve water quality.

Facts about SAV

  • SAV grow in more than a dozen varieties in shallow water regions of the Bay, its rivers, and coastal lagoons
  • Their leaves and stems absorb wave energy, help settle out sediments, and the roots and rhizomes bind the substrate.
  • SAV also uptake nitrogen and phosphorus that, in overabundance, lead to algae blooms that can impair water quality.
  • Decomposing SAV provide food for benthic (bottom-dwelling) aquatic life

Chief Threat: Poor Water Quality

  • At its most pristine, the Bay may have supported more than 600,000 acres of SAV.
  • Since the 1950s, there has been a tremendous decline in SAV due to degraded water quality. In 1972, incredible amounts of rainfall and runoff caused by Tropical Storm Agnes dealt a final blow to many grass beds.

Protecting Existing SAV

  • Protection measures and best management practices are being developed to reduce shoreline erosion and tidal resuspension.
  • Protection areas have been established in certain regions to restrict the impact of fishery methods on SAV.

Restoration Solutions

  • Improving water quality is key to restoring SAV.
  • Water clarity goals have been set to reduce sediment and nutrient inputs from upland sources, tidal shorelines, tidal resuspension and estuarine processes.
  • Land-use planning, wetland protection, and riparian buffer planting can help restore and protect SAV.
  • Where water quality is good enough to support SAV survival, hands-on restoration efforts can help establish, expand, or diversify grass communities.
  • Small test plantings are used to evaluate whether conditions at a particular location can support SAV.
  • If test plantings are successful at a site, larger-scale restoration may accelerate the recovery of SAV.
  • Simultaneous efforts to improve water quality and restore and protect SAV is hoped to start an "ecological chain reaction" in which improved water quality promotes grass growth. Scientists hope this process will further improve water quality for expansion of more SAV.