Regional partners, led by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP), have published an updated map of the extent of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in North Carolina’s sounds during 2020. SAV, also known as seagrasses or underwater grasses, improve water quality, decrease shoreline erosion, and are an essential habitat for many fishery and wildlife species.
“These mapping efforts are critical to understanding the locations and health of this important habitat within our sounds” states APNEP Director Dr. Bill Crowell. Mapping SAV in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary was done through a combination of aerial flights and ground truthing with boat-based surveys. This survey was accomplished through strong collaboration by members of APNEP’s SAV Team. Team lead Dr. Jud Kenworthy states that “monitoring SAV would not be possible without the wide-ranging expertise of the Team and the dedication of partners who contribute staff and infrastructure to conduct the surveys.”
This map updates the amount and location of SAV in the high salinity areas of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary. Analysis of previous mapping efforts in 2006-2008 and 2012-2014 have indicated that SAV resources are declining. The 2020 mapping data will help to confirm if and where SAV is continuing to decline over time, guiding the development of protection and restoration strategies for this valuable coastal habitat. “These mapping efforts are a key component of North Carolina’s Coastal Habitat Protection Plan implementation,” states APNEP Coastal Habitats Coordinator Jimmy Johnson. “Protecting SAV habitat will increase the resilience of our coastal ecosystems overall.” Collaborative monitoring and assessment of SAV with partner organizations will continue annually as part of APNEP’s new regional SAV monitoring strategy, with findings reported to the public as they become available.
Funding for the project was provided to APNEP by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, with field and technical support from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and numerous other governmental, non-governmental, and academic partners.
The 2020 mapping information, as well as previous SAV mapping GIS layers, are available online at the DEQ ArcGIS Online website. For more information, check out APNEP's SAV monitoring webpage or contact Dr. Tim Ellis, the Partnership’s Quantitative Ecologist, at (919)707-8106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.