SAV Study Indicates Nutrient Reduction Value

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A research article published in March, 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzes the positive impact of long-term nutrient reductions on an important and valuable ecosystem in the Chesapeake Bay.

The research indicates that a resurgence of underwater grasses is due to nutrient reductions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load along with conservation incentives which have resulted in a healthier Chesapeake Bay.

Jonathan Lefcheck of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science, along with 13 co-authors, showed that a 23 percent reduction of nitrogen and an eight percent reduction of phosphorus has resulted in more than a threefold increase in abundance of submerged aquatic vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay.

This ecosystem recovery is an unprecedented event; based on the breadth of data available and a sophisticated data analysis, this is the biggest resurgence of underwater grasses ever recorded in the world.

One of the co-authors of the article is Brooke Landry, Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist and chair of the Chesapeake Bay Program Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Workgroup.

The researchers employed advanced analytical tools to definitively show how the reduction of excess pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus are the cause of this ecosystem recovery.

To link land use and Chesapeake Bay status, researchers analyzed data in two different ways: one focusing on the cascade of nutrients from the land to the waterways, and one showing what happens to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) once the nutrients are in the water.

These findings are a collaborative effort between: the Bigelow Laboratory for Environmental Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, U.S. Geological Survey, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi.

Dr. William Dennison of University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Dr. Robert “JJ” Orth of Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary are senior co-authors and have worked on underwater grasses and water quality reporting for bay ecosystem restoration over decades.

Dr. Dennison is the recipient of the first Margaret A. Davidson Award for Stewardship from the Coastal Estuarine Research Federation of the University of Maryland and Dr. Orth will receive the outstanding scientist of Virginia award March 1.

source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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