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A Comparative Test of Mechanized and Manual Transplanting of Eelgrass, Zostera marina, in Chesapeake Bay

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Abstract

AbstractThe laborious process of manual seagrass transplanting has often limited the size of seagrass restoration efforts. This study tested the efficiency of a mechanized planting boat, previously used for transplanting Halodule wrightii, relative to manual transplanting methods for establishing Zostera marina in Chesapeake Bay. Eelgrass planting was conducted at two sites, one each in the Rappahannock and James rivers, in October 2001. The methods were evaluated by three criteria: (1) initial planting success = proportion of attempted planting units (PUs) initially established (number confirmed in sediment by divers/number attempted); (2) survival = proportion of the initially established PUs persisting over 1, 4, and 24 weeks; and (3) efficiency = labor (in person·seconds) invested in each surviving PU. Initial planting success was significantly lower for the planting boat (24 and 56% at the Rappahannock and James sites, respectively) than for manual transplanting (100% at both sites). At the Rappahannock site, survival of initially established PUs declined over time for both methods, but while mean survival was always higher for manually planted rows, differences in survival between methods were not statistically significant. At the James site, survival to 1 and 4 weeks was significantly lower for the machine than for the manual method, but survival to 24 weeks was not significantly different. While the machine was able to attempt PUs faster than the manual method (2.2 s/PU vs. 5.8 s/PU, respectively), this speed was offset by poorer planting success rates, resulting in a much greater total labor investment for each machine-planted PU that persisted to 24 weeks than for each similarly persisting manually planted PU (40.6 person·seconds/PU and 22.4 person·seconds/PU, respectively, averaged across sites). In summary, those PUs successfully planted by the machine survived similarly to PUs planted by hand, but as a result of poorer initial planting success, the machine required a greater investment of labor and plant donor stock for each PU surviving to 24 weeks. Therefore, in its tested configuration this planting boat is not a significant improvement over the manual method for transplanting eelgrass.

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