Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)

SAV is an integral part of the Chesapeake’s ecosystem providing habitat for shellfish and fish, food for waterfowl and marsh mammals and improved bay water quality. Since the early 1970s there has been a documented decline in SAV throughout the Bay, however, recent studies suggest the grasses are beginning to recover. Restoring SAV to the Chesapeake Bay is essential to the recovery of the Bay. SAV Research at Otter Point Creek (OPC) focuses on new methods to restore SAV. Effects of species diversity on restoration success, types of starter plants used, and quantifying growth and reproduction rates of various species used for restoration are some of the OPC projects.

Researchers hope to:

  1. determine the effect of plant density and size on restoration success;
  2. identify and quantify the function of different species as it pertains to improving water clarity, nutrient uptake and overall water quality; and
  3. track the distribution and plant health at various sites throughout the marsh to explore the relationship between water quality and plant success.

The goal is to discover new and better ways to restore SAV to aquatic systems. Additional efforts include exploring propagation protocol for various species, examining growth and reproduction rates in a greenhouse and studying mechanisms for nutrient uptake. SAV research is coordinated by the Reserve Research Coordinator with help from OPC volunteers, interns and staff. This research will help to improve the management and restoration of coastal systems.

Recent Findings:

Currently, predominant SAV species found at OPC are hydrilla, Hydrilla verticillata, and eurasian watermilfoil, Myriophyllum spicatum, both non-native species; however, thanks to restoration efforts as well as native stocks, we are starting to see native species such as wild celery, Vallisneria americana, and coontail, Ceratophyllum demersum, return to OPC.

Keep an eye out for more information after we collect SAV data!

Chesapeake Bay SAV Watchers is a regional community science program that was developed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to get nature-loving volunteers involved in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) monitoring.

This year there will be three ‘Watch-a-Thon’ SAV monitoring events at Otter Point Creek. Each day will begin with a short training session so that you can become a Tier 2 SAV Watcher, and then transition to a couple of hours on the water so that we can monitor together. During monitoring, volunteers (you!) will photograph samples of SAV and fill out a short, provided data sheet detailing the conditions the SAV are growing in, what types of SAV you see, if it has flowers, how dense it is, etc. Here is a useful pocket field guide you can download to get you started! 

Why is SAV Important?

These underwater grasses act as an indicator of the Chesapeake Bay’s health. SAV beds support ecosystems by providing food and habitat for organisms, stabilizing sediment with their roots, sequestering carbon as they grow, filtering out excess nutrients, adding oxygen to the water through photosynthesis, and are part of many other cool ecosystem services. 

How do I Get Involved?

Register for one of our Watch-a-Thon Events, and join our Facebook group to connect with current volunteers. If you cannot make any of the training days, there is still an opportunity as a Tier 1 SAV Watcher by downloading the “Water Reporter” app. This allows you to snap a picture, guess at the species, and upload your Tier 1 observation to the Chesapeake Bay SAV map without any further training!

These are the current areas of Otter Point Creek that OPCA monitors

Come out and SAV some fun with us!