Two decades ago, it was almost impossible to find eelgrass in Virginia’s South Bay—or many of the other small bays behind the barrier islands along the state’s eastern shore. After a barrage of disease followed by a powerful hurricane wiped them out by 1933, many thought the eelgrasses would never return. With the eelgrass went the brant goose, a popular waterfowl for sport hunting, and a lucrative bay scallop industry that had brought in millions of dollars per year. “Because the bay scallop relies on the eelgrass as it’s growing up, it just completely disappeared and never came back,” said Jonathan Lefcheck, a marine biologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Today, a 20-year restoration has transformed South Bay and its neighboring bays into an oasis. But for the scientists leading the effort, restoring the eelgrass wasn’t enough. They wanted to find out if all the benefits eelgrasses provide would return as well. A new Science Advances report finally gave them their answer. The Bays That Were Left Behind Robert “JJ” Orth stands beside a VIMS tank for holding seagrass flowers, which the team used to generate seeds for the eelgrass restoration. (Credit: Paul Richardson) The restoration began with […]

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