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In the News! Virginia CZM Eelgrass Restoration Efforts

VIMS Professor Briefs Congress on `Splendors' of Seagrass
VIMS - David Malmquist, March 12, 2014

Virginia CZM Program Eelgrass Restoration Efforts

SAV seeds in hand ready to be broadcast in water to restore beds

Restoration of eelgrass (zostera marina) beds on the Seaside of Virginia's Eastern Shore is a significant accomplishment of the Virginia CZM Program through the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program, a public-private effort focusing on the restoration of aquatic resources and sustainable industries on the seaside.    This work continues through grants to Virginia CZM Program partners including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and under the Seaside Special Area Management Plan.

Virginia Seaside Accomplishments Report - June 2013 (with funding chart) (pdf) -- includes an update on eelgrass restoration on the Seaside of Virginia's Eastern Shore  

  • Eelgrass beds provide habitat!  The beds provide food and habitat for waterfowl, fish, shellfish and invertebrates. Eelgrass beds are a special habitat for many aquatic organisms and a pivotal role in the life of many aquatic species, including the Bay scallop and the Lined seahorse. Restored beds on the Bay Scallopseaside has already begun encouraging the return of many of these species.
  • Eelgrass produce oxygen!  Eelgrass produces oxygen in the water column as part of the photosynthetic process.
  • Eelgrass beds control sediment! The beds filter and trap sediment that can cloud the water and bury bottom-dwelling organisms, such as oysters.
  • Eelgrass beds protect shorelines! The beds protect shorelines from erosion by absorbing wave energy.
  • Eelgrass removes excess nutrients! Eelgrass removes excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, that could fuel unwanted growth of algae in surrounding waters. Eelgrass requires these nutrients for growth and reproduction.

Seed Broadcasting: A seagrass restoration technique sowing great rewards on Virginia’s Seaside

Aerial of restored eelgrass bed on Eastern Shore showing natural spread of grasses

Eelgrass restoration on the Seaside of Virginia's Eastern Shore focuses on the redistribution of grass seeds. Seeds are sustainably harvested from productive grass beds and transplanted to areas in need of restoration.

Aerial photos, like the one at right, show the phenomenal success of eelgrass plots restored on Virginia’s Seaside using the seed broadcasting technique. This plot in the shape of a “W” restored in 2000 is thriving and spreading naturally to the surrounding area!

Learn more about restoration of seagrass on Virginia's Eastern Shore by the Virginia CZM Program !  Visit the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program page!

Fun, Educational Materials

"Build-A-Bed" Activity

This interactive educational activity created by Virginia CZM Program Office staff enables students to build a model of an eelgrass bed (in small wading pools) and populate their eelgrass bed with some of the species that inhabit the bed (Laminated and weighted cutouts of the animals) - helping teach the children how eelgrass beds are a  critical habitat to other marine species. 

Download plans to construct and conduct the activity - Build-A-Bed Activity Design and Instructions - pdf

Seacil of the Seagrass

Seacil of the SeagrassOfficial mascot of the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program, Seacil of the Seagrass, a costumed character, is available for loan to Virginia CZM partners. Seacil also was featured as a cookie cutter with the message "Seacil the Seahorse Lives in the Seagrass! Support Seagrass Restoration!" Although supplies of the cookie cutter have been depleted, the mold created for the cookie cutter is still available for use.  Call (804) 698-4320 or e-mail.


graphic of eelgrass

Links to SAV websites

Virginia Institute of Marine Science -

VIMS SAV Restoration Page -

Chesapeake Bay Program (EPA) -

NOAA logo 

For comments or questions concerning this program's web pages, contact the Virginia Witmer.

This website is provided by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program through a Coastal Zone Management Act grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce.

SAV Facts

Reproductive SAV Shoot Showing Seeds

  • Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), also known as "underwater grasses", “seagrass”, “Bay grasses” or "seagrass", are flowering vascular plants that grow in shallow water. 
  • Sixteen (16) species of SAV are commonly found in the shallow waters of coastal Virginia.
  • SAV is a key contributor to energy cycling in coastal waters. Microscopic zooplankton feed on decaying grasses and, in turn, are food for larger organisms.
  • Salinity is a primary factor affecting SAV distribution. SAV commonly found in areas of higher salinity include eelgrass (Zostera marina) and widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima). Grasses commonly found in areas of lower salinity include redhead grass (Potamogeton perfoliatus) and sago pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus).
  • SAV distribution is influenced by temperature, light penetration, water depth, water currents and bottom sediment.
  • SAV serves as a substrate and/or food for small species such as bay barnacles, sea squirts, sponges, Bay scallops, isopods, amphipods, snails and sea slugs. Grasses also provide a hiding place for small fish and crustaceans, such as pipefish, sticklebacks, anchovies, silversides, shrimp, blue crabs, clams and Lined seahorses, like Seacil!

Crab in Eelgrass

No Blue Crabs?
Like the oyster fishery, the Blue Crab fishery is in a state of peril. Blue Crab numbers have declined dramatically in recent years.
...The Solution!
SAV beds provide a safe haven for blue crabs as they shed their old shell (exoskeleton) and wait for their new shell to harden. An increase in grass beds will help increase the Blue Crab population!

Fewer Fish?
SAV beds are a protective nursery for many juvenile fish including menhaden, herring, shad, spot, croaker, weakfish, red drum and silver perch.
...The Solution!
Give fish a chance, restore SAV beds!

Fewer Migrating Waterfowl?
SAV is a valuable food source for migrating waterfowl such as Brandt, the American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal. The Canvasback duck searches the sediment under grass beds for nutritious seeds, roots and tubers.
...Part of the Solution!
Feed the birds! Increase SAV beds!

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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