LTER Road Trip – Restoring Seagrass in Virginia’s Estuaries

he waters lapping against the shoreline marshes reflected bright blue sky above. I sat in the front of the Virginia Coast Reserve Long Term Ecological Research (VCR LTER) site’s boat, exploring the estuary with VCR LTER’s dedicated staff. The tall Spartina alternifora grasses waved in the breeze a foot or two above the waterline, and dozens of egrets, herons, and ibises prowled for prey among the shallows or flew overhead. Though the above-ground landscape was teaming with life, the aquatic world was home to an equally amazing story.

In previous decades, seagrasses carpeted the bottom of the estuary. Juvenile fish species and sea turtles sheltered within the aquatic vegetation, also home to shellfish and crustaceans. At one time, the scallop population was so large it supported an entire seafood industry along Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Virginia Coastal Reserve

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