Underwater Grasses Decline for 2nd Year in a Row

Chesapeake Bay Magazine
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By Karl Blankenship, Bay Journal News Service

The acreage of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay declined 7% in 2020, the second consecutive year that the amount of critical underwater meadows has dropped since peaking three years ago.

The grass beds, which provide habitat and food for everything from waterfowl and turtles to finfish and blue crabs, covered 62,169 acres last year. That is 40% less than the recent record of 108,077 acres reported in 2018, before months of heavy rainfall sent a flood of murky water into the Bay.

The decline was far from uniform, though. Underwater grasses at both ends of the Bay—the low-salinity areas at the top of the Bay and the high-salinity areas closer to its mouth — saw rebounds last year after suffering major setbacks in 2019.

But the mid-salinity areas in the middle of the Chesapeake, which contain the vast majority of potential underwater grass habitat, continued to be hammered. Large beds around Tangier Sound and the Choptank and…

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