I recently went to Chesapeake Bay to collect submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) for the Seagrass Microbiome Project. I found a lot of aquatic plants that were related to seagrass, which will be useful for comparing the SAV microbiome between species, not just within seagrass (Zostera marina). The plan was to embark on a five-day trip down the Potomac and James Rivers, hitting 12 sites and a 13’th out in the Bay. The rivers provide a near-replicate salinity gradient, allowing us to observe microbiome changes across varying salinities as well as species. Unfortunately, the amount of sampling we planned to get done was a bit too ambitious. We got through 11 sites, only 3 of which had SAVs, all on the Potomac. So goes field sampling, I guess.
Here is a selection of pictures of what was found at some of the sites with tentative identifications:
Ceratophyllum demersum, found at the most freshwater site on the Potomac
Really dead Vallisneria americana, tons of which was found at the most freshwater site on the Potomac
Myriophyllum spicatum, found in a very muddy and sedimented wetlands area, surrounded by Spartina.
Vallisneria again? Wasn’t sure at first since it had those oddly curly leaves, but it seems Vallisneria has a lot of leaf morphologies and this is one of them. Found at the second most freshwater sight, happily growing on a rocky coast.
Sadly, a lot of the sites were boating areas or were otherwise heavily impacted by human activities. Almost all the sites had water with boating oil floating atop it. Most of the coasts were filled with terrestrial and semi-aquatic plants, but no aquatic vegetation whatsoever. Just bare, sandy coasts and water filled with oil. It really solidified how important seagrasses and SAVs are to ecosystems. They thrived in areas of the Potomac with higher biodiversity and less anthropogenic influence. And having waded through tangles of SAVs, I can assure everyone that they really do a great job filtering trash that flows outward from land.