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Underwater Vegetation Is Making A Comeback In The Chesapeake Bay

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It was a hard blow to the Chesapeake, and it’s taken years to recover.

Alex DeMetrick reports what severe weather damaged below the bay is showing new life.

There is no lack of life above the Chesapeake, and below the surface, the bay is showing new life. Underwater grasses are coming back.

“About a 25 percent increase, which is obviously good news,” said Dr. Beth McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The bad news hit three years ago, when tropical storms Irene and Lee dumped millions of tons of sediment into the Chesapeake. What grasses weren’t smothered were ripped out by the roots in the northern bay.

“Pretty good odds that most of it has come from the flats. See that ribbon-like grass? That’s all wild celery,” said John Page Williams, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

While in the southern bay, heat spells killed off eel grass. It was a loss, because that vegetation:

“Actually soaks up pollution out of the water. It can settle sediment from the water,” McGee said. “So it’s just the underwater meadows in the bay are just incredibly valuable part of the bay ecosystem.”

With more grass in the bay, could it mean more crabs this summer?

Last year, a big catch was expected, but small crabs seen in early spring vanished by summer. Why is unclear, although life is a lot more dangerous for animals that need to hide to survive. Grass beds are perfect camouflage from predators.

“And clearly if there’s not underwater grasses for crabs to hide in when they’re vulnerable, when they’re malting their shells, that is going to reduce the numbers,” McGee said.

So with more life here, more life could follow.

Because underwater grass needs sunlight to grow, the vegetation is also a good indicator that water clarity may be improving as well.

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