Planting techniques have changed over the five years of large scale planting to increase transplant survival and efficiency. Three main planting techniques have been used in the bay.


In 2001 and 2002, the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (URIGSO) experimented with using seeds to grow eelgrass at test sites adjacent to Save The Bay eelgrass. 
Seeds were derived from flowering shoots that were collected in the salt ponds on the south shore of Rhode Island. The eelgrass seeds were injected into the sediment using URIGSO’s seeding machine. Germination rates were about 10% or less. However, the seeds that did germinate fell victim to predation resulting in zero survival. Due to the problems of predation, likely from invasive crabs, this method is not used in Narragansett Bay. However, it is being tested in the salt ponds and other estuaries, including the Chesapeake Bay. For more information about the URIGSO seeding go to 

Eelgrass Harvesting

Methods using adult eelgrass shoots require collection from donor bed sites. For such methods, eelgrass shoots are collected from natural healthy beds at sites in Jamestown and Newport. Volunteer divers go into the water with a catch bag and garden trowel. They randomly dig up small patches of eelgrass and fill up their bag. When the bag is full, they come to the surface and hand their full bag off to a kayaker who then gives them an empty catch bag to continue harvesting. The kayakers bring in the full bags to what we affectionately call our “land sea interface”. These folks wash the excess sediment out of the eelgrass and bring it up to our sorters on shore. The sorters have an important role of counting the shoots and bundling them into 50 shoots per bundle. These bundles are then planted at the transplant sites, allowing us to monitor survival based on an initial planting of 50 shoots per 0.25m2.

TERF™ Method

The TERF Method (Transplanting Eelgrass Remotely with Frames), which we used from 2001 to 2003, involves tying adult eelgrass shoots to a frame using biodegradable Cray paper.

The frames are deployed for 3-6 weeks to allow roots to take hold in the sediment. This technique was a great way to involve the community in eelgrass restoration. However, when we would retrieve the frames, some shoots would come up with the frames and we’d have to re-plant them by hand. The main reason we no longer use this method is because our efforts have increased in scale, making this method logistically more difficult. At this point we would need about 380 frames per site, which is a lot of extra equipment.  

Hand Planting 

Save The Bay, with help from our volunteer divers, has been transplanting eelgrass by hand since the fall of 2003 and this is currently the method used today. This method is adapted from the Horizontal Rhizome Method.
SCUBA divers plant adult shoots by hand and secure the plants to the sediment using biodegradable skewers. A bundle of 50 shoots is planted within a 0.25m2 quadrat. During harvest, plants are not teased apart; rather shoots that are harvested in clumps are planted as such to improve efficiency. Though this is a labor intensive method, it is a logistically easier for planting on such a large scale. All planting is done at low tide for the safety of divers and for ease of effort. We are currently using this method to plant large plots of 24 quadrats in a checkerboard pattern. After only a year, we see the plants coalescing to form one large plot. This method also has added benefits for volunteer safety and quality control.