Regional partners, led by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP), released an updated map of the extent of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Sounds of North Carolina in 2020. SAV, also known as sea or undersea grasses, improves water quality, decreases shoreline erosion and provides essential habitat for many fish and wildlife species.
“These mapping efforts are critical to understanding the locations and health of this important habitat in our sounds,” says APNEP Director Dr. Bill Crowell. SAV mapping in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary was carried out through a combination of aerial flights and ground truthing with boat surveys. This survey was carried out thanks to a solid collaboration between the members of the APNEP after-sales service team. Team leader, Dr Jud Kenworthy, says that “VAS follow-up would not be possible without the vast expertise of the team and the dedication of the partners who provide personnel and infrastructure to carry out the investigations”.
This map updates the amount and location of SAV in high salinity areas of the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary. Analysis of previous mapping efforts in 2006-2008 and 2012-2014 indicated that VAS resources are in decline. Map data from 2020 will help confirm if and where SAV continues to decline over time, guiding the development of protection and restoration strategies for this valuable coastal habitat. “These mapping efforts are a key part of implementing North Carolina‘s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan,” says Jimmy Johnson, APNEP Coastal Habitat Coordinator. “Protecting SAV habitat will increase the resilience of our coastal ecosystems as a whole.” Collaborative VAS monitoring and evaluation with partner organizations will continue each year as part of APNEP’s new regional VAS surveillance strategy, with results being communicated to the public as they become available.
Funding for the project was provided to APNEP by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, with technical and field support from the Division of North Carolina Marine Fisheries and many other government, non-government and academic partners.