Social Media Icons DEQ Facebook DEQ Twitter DEQ Instagram DEQ LinkedIn

Virginia CZM Program: 2014 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Project Title:

2014 Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Distribution and Abundance Survey

Project Description as Proposed:

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) is a critical living resource in Chesapeake Bay that has undergone rapid and dramatic baywide fluctuations in distribution and abundance over the last two decades, and is being subjected to declines in water quality and to ever increasing pressure from recreational, commercial, and industrial demands. Because SAV is dependent on good water quality to which it responds over short time scales, it can be an important indicator of water quality.

In 2014, VIMS will continue the annual SAV survey program, begun in 1984, by mapping SAV in the shoal areas of the entire Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries from aerial photography acquired during late spring to late summer.

Black & white aerial photography will be acquired at a photographic scale of approximate 1:24,000, following guidelines that address tidal stage, plant growth, sun angle, turbidity, wind, atmospheric transparency, sensor operation and land features to allow for acquisition of photographs under near optimal conditions.

Ground data on species distribution and abundance will be collected by participating agencies and citizen groups from as many of the Chesapeake Bay Program segments as possible and included in the final report.

The aerial photographs will be evaluated for SAV signatures using all available information.  Photographs containing SAV signatures will be orthographically corrected and mosaiced by USGS 7.5 minute topographic quadrangles using Orthobase and Imagine image processing software .

The perimeters of all SAV beds mapped from the 2014 aerial photography will be delineated on-screen using ArcInfo geographic information system (GIS) software and stored in an ArcInfo GIS database.  A final report will include maps of all SAV beds, and areas of these beds, as well as any ground truth information submitted to VIMS.  The report will be published on the VIMS web site, as in past years.  SAV polygons will also be available on the VIMS SAV interactive web site.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Robert Orth, 804.684.7392;

Project Status:

10/1/2014 - 12/31/2015; Project Open

Final Product Received:

Final Project Summary serves as Final Product. 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

For 2014 in Chesapeake Bay, 30,528 hectares (75,438 acres) of SAV were mapped in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Notable changes in SAV distribution were measured between 2014 and 2013. SAV increased 26% from 24,164 ha (59,711 ac) to 30,528 ha (75,438 ac). SAV increased in all four (Tidal Fresh, Oligohaline, Mesohaline, and Polyhaline) salinity zones in the Chesapeake Bay. In 2014, SAV increased in 54, decreased in 12, and remained unvegetated in 27 of the 93 CBP segments. The 6,525 ha increase in baywide SAV coverage in 2014 represents a continued recovery from strong declines in 2011 and 2012 that reduced SAV abundance to a level last reported for the Bay in 1986. The 2014 increase was the result of a strong increase in the Mesohaline (4,710 ha), and Oligohaline (642 ha) salinity zones and smaller relative increases in the Tidal Fresh (611 ha) and Polyhaline (402 ha) salinity zones. In 2014, the increase in the Mesohaline salinity zone is due primarily to a continuing rapid expansion of widgeongrass, including in areas where SAV had not been mapped by previous surveys.

In the Tidal Fresh Bay Zone (19 CBP segments), SAV increased 11% from 5,659 ha (13,985 ac) in 2013 to 6,270 ha (15,495 ac) in 2014. In the Oligohaline Bay Zone (25 CBP segments), SAV increased 328% from 2,272 hectares (5,613 ac) in 2013 to 2,914 hectares (7,200 ac) in 2014. In the Mesohaline Bay Zone (41 CBP segments), SAV increased 46% from 10,283 hectares (25,410 ac) in 2013 to 14,992 hectares (37,048 ac) in 2014. In the Polyhaline Bay Zone (8 CBP segments), SAV increased 7% from 5,950 ha (14,703 ac) in 2013 to 6,352 ha (15,696 ac) in 2014.

For 2014 in the Delmarva Peninsula Coastal Bays Zone, 4,478 hectares (11,065 ac) were mapped (Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Sinepuxent, Chincoteague, and Southern Virginia coastal bays). Turbid conditions in 2014 prevented us from mapping the Southern Virginia coastal bays. In addition, a small area of turbidity obscured a portion of Chincoteague Bay in 2013.

The 2014 SAV report can now be viewed at: and also on VIMS’s interactive map: 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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

Some resources on this website require Adobe Reader and Flash Player, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel. If you wish to receive this content in an accessible format pursuant to Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. ยง 794 (d)), please call 800-592-5482. In addition, this website includes hyperlinks to websites neither controlled nor sponsored by DEQ or the Commonwealth of Virginia. Links may open in a new window. If you wish to receive content from a website which is neither controlled nor sponsored by DEQ or the Commonwealth, please contact the host of that website directly.

Privacy Statement | Terms Of Use | WAI Compliance | Contact Us