BALTIMORE (AP) - An annual aerial survey of Chesapeake Bay grasses has found they continued to decline last year, and researchers are again blaming a pair of 2011 storms.
Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee dumped mud and debris into the bay, and surveyors said Thursday that is the mostly likely cause for the 24 percent drop. A more than 20 percent decline the previous year was blamed on the same storms and summer heat.
Underwater grass acreage has now dropped to levels last reported in 1986. The die-off was least severe in the southern bay, where new beds were found in the James River. Grass beds declined by nearly a third in the upper bay.
The grasses provide food and habitat for many species while absorbing pollutants and helping clear water.