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Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

Submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV for short, is a fancy term for the underwater grass beds of the Chesapeake Bay. The underwater grasses help scientists monitor the bay’s health. Not only do grasses indicate improved water quality, but they also provide both food and shelter for waterfowl, fish, clams, oysters, crabs, and smaller crustaceans.

However, the beds have been assaulted from various fronts such as siltation, pollution, and the scarring effects of clam dredging. Water clouded by excessive nutrients, such as from agricultural runoff, blocks the sunlight necessary for the growth of the underwater plants. The drastic decline of underwater grasses over the past few decades has paralleled an overall decline in the health of the estuary. Environmental changes, coupled with favorable amounts of freshwater flow into the bay during recent droughts, promote a tantalizing resurgence of grasses some years, except in the very important area of Tangier Sound. The disappearance of those grasses in other years is disappointing and frustrating. The problem continues to tax the ingenuity of scientists to come up with solutions and the willingness of the public to take necessary steps to keep the bay healthy.

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