Potomac River Gains New Life

Researchers have found that Washington D.C.’s Potomac River has an increase in the diversity and amount of underwater plants. Underwater plants provide oxygen, food and habitat for fish crabs and other invertebrates. They also provide food for aquatic birds.

The area of native underwater plants has increased ten-fold. Also the number of native plants relative to the number of exotics has increased. In 1971, there were no underwater plants of significance in the upper Potomac, according to a USGS (United States Geological Survey)  timeline.

River plants have increased presumably due to the recent efforts to restore water quality. A reduction in nitrogen from the wastewater treatment plant has allowed plants to grow again. Also sediment and nutrient reductions have increased water clarity, which benefits plants.

“Our results suggest that widespread recovery of submerged vegetation abundance and diversity can be achievable if restoration efforts are enhanced across the bay,” says Henry Ruhl from the National Oceanography Center. (Source: USGS)

Examples of the underwater plants which have increased are stargrass and wild celery.
wild celery


Key Improvements

  • Native SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) cover increased tenfold from 288 to 3081 acres.
  • The overall area covered by SAV in the Potomac more than doubled since 1990, increasing from 4207 to 8441 acres.
  • The diversity of SAV has increased. In 1990 the exotic hydrilla was 10 times more abundant than any other species. In 2007 the abundance of the 7 most frequently occurring species are more evenly matched.

New plant growth is very significant because plants have been known to improve and maintain water quality. USGS research has “demonstrated that beds of SAV were capable of altering the ambient water quality in the tidal river, increasing oxygen and pH during the daylight hours and maintaining clear water.”

Image Credit: USGS

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40 comments

jessica r.
jessica r.3 years ago

If we do the right things, nature can rebound. Great news.

Natasha Salgado
natasha salgado3 years ago

Fabulous!!! Now leave it alone and let it thrive. Thx for the post.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for the information

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham4 years ago

thanks for the article!

Hester Goedhart
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

Hope they put this information to good use then!

Elizabeth P.
.6 years ago

Happy to hear something is getting new life.

Monica D.
M D.6 years ago

This sounds like good news.

Mervi R.
Mervi R.6 years ago

Great news!

Peter B.
Peter B.6 years ago

thankyo for shareing info