Restoring valuable habitats

Thanks to the support of our hard-working volunteers, 2009 has been incredibly productive for the National Aquarium’s Conservation Team.  Throughout the year, 4 large-scale planting events translated into 10 critical acres restored – that’s 144,000 plants that will provide valuable habitat and help to slow shoreline erosion! 

Our restoration projects took us to many beautiful areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay.  The planting season kicked off just outside of Cambridge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  In May, fifty-two volunteers and 90 students joined us on Barren Island to plant 3 acres of restored offshore habitat, created from repurposed dredge material.  The marsh grasses we provided are a huge part of the recipe that turns dredge material into viable wetland habitat, making it possible to rebuild islands that have dramatically eroded over the last century. 

Poplar Island is a similar restoration project off of Tilghman Island MD, in the central region of the Bay.  Dredge material is again being used to rebuild the severely eroded Island to its original 1000 acres.  The Aquarium Conservation Team, along with 268 volunteers and students, planted 3 acres of wetland grasses on the island in June.  As more dredge material is brought in and settles into plant-able areas, the National Aquarium will continue to return to the island to be a part of the restoration process.  The next Poplar Island planting project is expected to take place in the summer of 2011. 

Click here to learn more about Poplar Island and the beneficial use of dredge material.

In 2009 the Aquarium built upon a long-standing partnership with Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kent County, MD.   The project involved restoring critical waterfowl habitat by protecting Hail Point, an isthmus that separates Hail Creek and the Chester River.  The living shoreline planted by a group of 51 volunteers and students in September will be instrumental in protecting submerged aquatic vegetation in Hail Creek.  These underwater grasses are a large part of the reason Eastern Neck is considered one of the five best waterfowl habitats in Maryland. 

The final planting project of the year took the Conservation Team out of the muck and onto the dunes; earlier this month we visited Naval Air Station Oceana-Dam Neck Annex, near Virginia Beach, VA.  The base operates along miles of coastline, and the erosion of sand dunes can compromise their buildings and operations, leaving them vulnerable to storm surge and saltwater intrusion.  Aquarium staff, ACT!, and local volunteers planted native dune grasses that will stabilize the dunes as their roots take hold.  This will benefit not only the Department of Defense, but also the numerous plant and animal species that call these coastal areas home. 

For information on how you can get involved with our restoration efforts, please click here.

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