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Discover the Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the United States - is an incredibly complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and food webs. The Bay and its rivers, wetlands and forests provide homes, food and protection for diverse groups of animals and plants. Fish of all types and sizes either live in the Bay and its tributaries year-round or visit its waters as they migrate along the East Coast.

Bay 101

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Bay 101: Fish Food

Find out what larger fish like striped bass and bluefish eat to survive in the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. Watersheds are sometimes called “basins” or "drainage basins."

We all live in a watershed. Some watersheds, like that of your local stream or creek, are small. Others, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, are very large. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among living and non-living things. Air, water, soil, sunlight, plants and animals – including humans – make up an ecosystem. Ecosystems can be as tiny as a patch of dirt in your backyard, or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is an extremely productive and complex ecosystem. The Bay ecosystem consists of the Bay itself, its local rivers and streams, and all the plants and animals it supports. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Critter Of The Month

Woodchuck
Marmota monax

Also known as the groundhog, the woodchuck is found throughout the Chesapeake region and hibernates from October to February.

Chesapeake History

2014

2014
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which contains goals and outcomes that will guide conservation and restoration across the watershed. For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states commit to those goals that reach beyond water quality.

2013

2013
  • A federal judge rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, thus upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that was challenged in court in 2011.

2012

2012
  • Harris Creek becomes the first target of the oyster restoration goals set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order: to restore oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025. In this Choptank River tributary, existing reefs will be studied, new bars will be built and spat-on-shell will be planted.

2011

2011
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit to the District of Columbia. It is the first of its kind to incorporate green infrastructure into its requirements, setting a national model for stormwater management.

2010

2010
  • Maryland, Virginia and New York ban phosphates in dishwasher detergent to lower phosphorous pollution in local waterways.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes the Total Maximum Daily Load to limit the amount of pollutants that can enter the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay Program launches ChesapeakeStat to improve communication about restoration goals, progress and funding.

Bay FAQ


How do invasive species affect the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


How does a loss of underwater grasses affect other parts of the Chesapeake Bay?


Is the Chesapeake Bay's water salty?


What is dissolved oxygen?


What is groundwater?


How deep is the Chesapeake Bay?


Can animals swim out of the dead zone to safety?


What is an airshed?


How does temperature affect the growth of underwater grasses?


Are there invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Terrestrial

An organism that lives on the land.

Thicket

A thick, tangled growth of shrubs, bushes and/or small trees.

Threatened

A species that is likely to become endangered if not protected.

Swamp

A type of wetland dominated by woody vegetation or trees.

Swim bladder

A gas-filled organ that regulates buoyancy in most bony fishes.

Diatoms

Microscopic algae with plate-like structures made of silica. Diatoms are considered a good food source for zooplankton.

Quality Assurance Project Plan

A document describing in comprehensive detail the necessary quality assurance, quality control and other technical activities that must be implemented to ensure that the results of the work performed will satisfy the stated performance criteria.

Sprawl

Land development that is built away from urban areas and existing town centers, creating large areas of relatively low-density residential and commercial development.

See more bay terms.

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