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Bay Grasses / Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)

What are Bay Grasses?

Bay grasses, or submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), are vascular plants that live underwater and are found throughout Maryland's tidal and non-tidal waters. Approximately fifteen varieties of bay grasses are typically found in the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding bodies of water.

submerged aquatic vegeatation photo

Unlike terrestrial plants which have rigid stems and leaves, bay grasses have specialized cells which provide buoyancy in the water environment. Bay grasses serve many important ecological roles such as improving water quality, providing food and shelter for other species as well as stabilizing sediment at the bottom of the water column.

Recent declines in water quality in the Bay caused by excess nutrients and sediment has caused significant losses of bay grass populations. Because of their importance, the restoration of bay grasses in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays is a priority for the department as well as the other Bay partners.

Dive Deeper into Bay Grasses:

Importance of Bay Grasses

Why are bay grasses are so critical to the health of the Chesapeake?

Identifying Bay Grasses

Our identification guide and key will help you figure out what bay grass species you saw, or might have growing near you.

Bay Grass Coverage

A visual timeline of the fluctuations of bay grass abundance in the Chesapeake.

Maryland Bay Grass Basin Map

View maps and charts of bay grass coverage data for Maryland tributaries.

Bay Grass Factors

What factors affect bay grass growth and health?

SAV Permits & Regulations

Bay grasses are protected from disruption by three laws, and in most cases a permit is required for SAV collection or removal.