October 2020
Vol 6, Issue 41

About The Cover

Cover image expansion

ONLINE COVER Though awareness of human-caused degradation to coastal environments has grown in recent years, many restoration studies have included only short-term monitoring and have focused on increasing plant biomass, failing to report on the secondary benefits produced by healthy ecosystems. To revive four bays on Virginia's Eastern Shore, each of which had lost its meadows of eelgrass by 1933 due to slime mold and a devastating hurricane, Robert Orth and colleagues developed a more comprehensive approach. Orth et al. determined that seed availability was the primary impediment to the habitat's restoration. Since 2001, the researchers and citizen volunteers have broadcast 74.5 million eelgrass seeds in 536 plots covering 213 hectares. Over time, seeds from adult plants in the restoration plots dispersed naturally into the surrounding ecosystem, resulting in 3,612 hectares of new vegetation to date. As a result, the meadows' turbidity levels have decreased, indicating healthier water. Meanwhile, stocks of carbon and nitrogen sequestered in mature seagrass sediments are 30% and 120% higher, respectively, than those in newly colonized sediments. Populations of silver perch, scallops, and other fauna have also increased rapidly. [CREDIT: WILL PARSON/CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM CC BY-NC 2.0]