Congratulations to Water Institute affiliate faculty Xiao Yu and David Kaplan (2017-2020 Faculty Fellow), for receiving a half-million-dollar National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in March to fund their study titled, “A framework for modeling flow over flexible submerged aquatic vegetation”.

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) refers to plant species that live entirely underwater, such as macro-algae (seaweed) and aquatic grasses. SAV plays a critical role in estuaries and rivers, particularly Florida springs, by stabilizing sediments, improving water quality and providing habitat and food for fish, manatees and other aquatic animals. However, little is understood about how SAV structure and the interactions between flow and vegetation affect water movement, algae cover, and sediment transport.

Yu (project PI) and Kaplan’s (Co-PI) three-year study will develop an integrated modeling framework using observational data and model results to 1) quantify the influence of vegetation structural properties and blade-to-blade interactions on hydrodynamics; and 2) characterize the collective behavior of flexible vegetation canopies under different flow conditions. This information can be used to assess effects of SAV on sediment transport and algae growth, which in turn can support water resource management decisions regarding minimum flow requirements for springs restoration.

The NSF award will support two PhD students, field observations in multiple Florida springs and development of the model.