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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: Monitoring and Modeling the Chesapeake Bay

Science provides tools that allow communities to make the best decisions for water quality locally and downstream

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

Eastern Mud Turtle
Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum

The eastern mud turtle is a small, semiaquatic reptile that lives in the shallow waters of wetlands and marshes. It is the only mud turtle found in the Chesapeake Bay region.

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


Where do nutrients come from?


What is a subwatershed?


Do phytoplankton migrate?


What makes an area a wetland?


Why is dissolved oxygen important?


Which rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay?


How will climate change affect the Chesapeake Bay?


Are American shad endangered?


What are benthos?


What is an anadromous fish?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Dry deposition

Pollutants in the air that fall onto the land or water as dry particles, without the aid of precipitation.

Predation

The preying of one animal on others.

Brackish

A combination of fresh and salt water. Most of the water in the Bay is brackish.

Bedrock

Solid rock underlying the earth’s surface.

Radula

A flexible, toothed organ in the mouths of gastropods used to graze and scrape microscopic algae off hard surfaces.

Endemic species

A species that is restricted in its distribution to a particular locality or region.

Tributary strategies

River-specific cleanup plans that detail the actions needed to achieve nutrient and sediment cap load allocations that are developed in cooperation with local watershed stakeholders.

Reservoir

A natural or artificial place where water is collected or stored for use, especially water for supplying a community, irrigating land and furnishing power.

See more bay terms.

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