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Keywords:

  • mechanized harvest and planting;
  • seagrass;
  • seeds

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the world's largest estuaries. Dramatic declines in the abundance and distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Chesapeake Bay over the last few decades led to a series of management decisions aimed at protecting and restoring SAV populations throughout the bay. In 2003, the Chesapeake Bay Program established a goal of planting 405 ha of SAV by 2008. Realizing that such an ambitious goal would require the development of large-scale approaches to SAV restoration, a comprehensive research effort was organized, involving federal and state agencies, academia, and the private sector. This effort differs from most other SAV restoration programs due to a strong emphasis on the use of seeds rather than plants as planting stock, a decision based on the relatively low labor requirements of seeding. Much of the research has focused on the development of tools and techniques for using seeds in large-scale SAV restoration. Since this research initiative began, an average of 13.4 ha/year of SAV has been planted in the Chesapeake Bay, compared to an average rate of 3.6 ha/year during the previous 21 years (1983–2003). The costs of conducting these plantings are on a downward trend as the understanding of the limiting factors increases and as new advances are made in applied research and technology development. Although this effort was focused in the Chesapeake Bay region, the tools and techniques developed as part of this research should be widely applicable to SAV restoration efforts in other areas.