Back River, Md shoreline. Photo by Darrick Sparks  

EPA Estuaries and Great Lakes Coastal Initiative (EaGLes)

This project is developing an optical indicators of habitat suitability for submersed aquatic vegetation for the atlantic slope.

The results will be used to update and improve the management tool currently being developed for Chesapeake Bay by providing coefficients that vary by land use and geological province within the mesohaline zone. This tool will be placed on the web site of the Chesapeake Bay Program and made available to planners and managers throughout the region. Finally, protocols will be developed for the estimation of similar site-specific optical water quality models for other coastal regions based solely on measurements in the laboratory. These protocols will be applied to water samples collected in areas of the Delaware and Pamlico Estuaries for development of similar indicators in regions where SAV are threatened on those systems.

Areas of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) are highly valued habitats because of the functions they perform in coastal systems. These functions include, among others, provision of refuge and nursery habitat for juvenile fish, shellfish and crabs, sediment stabilization, and food for certain waterfowl. Loss of valuable SAV habitat has, therefore, been one of the most deleterious effects of pollution in numerous coastal systems along the Atlantic slope. Efforts to preserve and restore seagrasses have focused mainly on factors affecting water clarity, because of the inherently high light requirement of seagrasses. Light penetration cannot be directly regulated by management efforts. Instead, the attenuation of light in water is controlled by the concentrations of three parameters: suspended particulate matter (SPM), phytoplankton chlorophyll (Chl), and colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM). Each of these parameters is affected by human activities in the coastal zone in different ways and to different degrees, and each is controlled by different management actions. For the efficient management of living resources, there is a need in the management community to have indicators for diagnosing the cause of SAV loss, and for setting water quality goals for protecting and preserving SAV areas on a site-specific basis.