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Cinema Bayville

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Creatures and Critters

In Green Obscurity

Narrator 1: We know the Bay is home to over 2,700 different plant and animal species. Each has a crucial role to play in keeping the Bay healthy. Some of these species are known collectively as submerged aquatic vegetation. We also call them Bay grasses. They help keep the water healthy by producing oxygen. They also provide safe places for fish and crabs to lay their eggs. But what happens when this needed resource needs help itself?
Narrator 2: It’s a side of the Chesapeake Bay that few people ever see—an emerald world filled with plants of all description. Bushy elodia, willowy slender pond weed, and ribbony wild celery arching up to the water’s surface. These plants are known collectively as Bay grass, and in times past, grasses like these lined the edges of most of the Chesapeake Bay. John Pugh, who spent his youth on the Bay:

John: In June, July, and August, the grass would get so thick, it would go out from the shoreline a good sixty or seventy yards, and in order to get out to the deep water you’d have to cut a path with your outboard motor, and you’d have to run back and forth ten or twenty times till you had an opening.

Narrator: But today resource managers wish they had such a problem. Bay grasses plummeted to about a tenth of its former acreage. Now, as scientists recognize the vital role grasses play in the health of the Chesapeake and coastal bays, natural resource agencies and environmental groups are mounting an all-out effort to bring the grasses back. David Goshorn, chief of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Living Resource Assessment program.

David: If you were to pick one habitat in the Bay that’s extremely important, grass beds would certainly be near the top of the list, if not at the very top. Young blue crabs can be up to 30 times more abundant in grass beds than outside of grass beds, so they’re very important as refuge for a lot of species. And also as food—either feeding on the grass directly, like a lot of waterfowl do, or feeding on small organisms that live on the grass beds.

Narrator: By the early 1980’s, Bay waters were being clouded by algae-causing nutrients and sediments. The grasses were dying, because they couldn’t get the sunlight they needed to grow.

David: It’s a very well-established relationship between water quality and grasses. We know that where water quality is poor, grasses decline or disappear, and when the water quality is improved, the grasses come back.

Narrator: In fact, thanks to tougher pollution controls, water quality has improved enough to support restored Bay grass beds in parts of the Bay.

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