Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Special Reports in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SRAMSOE) No. 355


Analyses of historical photography and ground surveys dating from the 1930s indicate that approximately 1645 hectares of SAV have been historically present in shallow water regions throughout the James River. This compares to 77 hectares of vegetation reported in 1997 and a James River Tier I SAV restoration goal of 107 hectares (areas mappped with SAV from 1971- 1991). Overall, the temporal and spatial patterns of loss of SAV populations in the James River suggest declines occurred first in the tidal freshwater regions of the upper James beginning approximately 50 years ago, and then subsequently in the lower James beginning approximately 30 years ago. Since then regrowth has been limited to high salinity regions near the river’s mouth along the shoreline of Hampton and Newport News, and an apparent increase in the region of the Chickahominy River. In a series of surveys by boat during the summer of 1998, numerous beds of SAV, many too small to map with high altitude aerial photography, were found in a number of the tidal tributary creeks of the James including the Chickahominy River, Wards Creek, Upper Chippokes Creek, Grays Creek, and Lower Chippokes Creek, as well as along the HamptonNewport News shoreline. The SAV which occurs in the river system today was found to be dominated by three species. SAV in the tidal freshwater tributaries of the upper James consistes principally of Ceratophyllum demersum (coontail) and Najas minor (common naiad). Here the SAV was growing to depths of 0.5-1.5 m. The SAV in the high salinity region is the saltwater tolerant species Zostera marina (eelgrass). Water depths of the areas currently vegetated with eelgrass were found to be approximately 0.5 to 1.0 m at MLW, while historical photographs suggest that vegetation in the lower James formerly grew to depths of nearly 2.0 m.



Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, Ecology, Virginia


This report was funded, in part, by the Virginia Coastal Resources Management Program at the Department of Environmental Quality through Grant No. NA67OZ0360-01 of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA, and of its subagencies or DEQ.



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