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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


Why does the Chesapeake Bay need plankton?


What large cities are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


How do grasses grow underwater?


Who was Captain John Smith?


How does polluted groundwater affect the Chesapeake Bay?


Where is the Chesapeake Bay saltiest?


What affects the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water?


How does oxygen get into the water?


What are the five major rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay?


What is the difference between an invasive and an exotic species?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Dorsal

Relating to or situated on an animal’s back.

Bloom

A dense population of algae fueled by excess nutrients. Algae blooms rob the Bay’s aquatic life of sunlight and dissolved oxygen.

Suspended sediments

Tiny particles of clay and silt that become suspended in the water, reducing water clarity and the amount of sunlight that can reach underwater bay grasses. Excess suspended sediment is one of the largest contributors to the Bay’s impaired water quality.

Micron

A unit of measurement equal to one thousandth of a millimeter.

Dinoflagellate

A type of algae with long, whip-like structures called flagellates.

Allowance

The amount of pollution a source is allowed to discharge during a given period of time.

Bioretention site

Also called a rain garden; an innovative method of stormwater management that retains rainwater and uses plants and layers of soil, sand and mulch to reduce the amount of nutrients and other pollutants that enter local waterways.

Bedrock

Solid rock underlying the earth’s surface.

See more bay terms.

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