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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

Select a category below to view videos from our Bay Program video library. Prior to using any of these videos, please view our terms of use to learn about usage rights.


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


Where is the Chesapeake Bay saltiest?


What causes poor water clarity?


What pollutes rivers and streams?


What is an anadromous fish?


How does groundwater become polluted?


What makes an area a wetland?


How rapid is sea level rising in the Chesapeake Bay?


How do forest buffers benefit the Chesapeake Bay?


How does chicken waste affect the Chesapeake Bay?


How many types of grasses grow in the Chesapeake Bay?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Dissolved oxygen (DO)

The amount of oxygen that is present in the water. It is measured in units of milligrams per liter (mg/L), or the milligrams of oxygen dissolved in a liter of water.  Just like humans, all of the Bay’s living creatures need oxygen to survive.

Consumer

Any organism that consumes other organisms (living or dead) to meet its energy needs.

Pollution

The introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment.

Eutrophication

The process of excess nutrients accelerating the growth of algae, ultimately depleting the water of dissolved oxygen.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

A chemical contaminant that forms when gas, coal and oil are burned. PAHs are common in areas with high rates of development and motor vehicle traffic.

Epifauna

Animals that live either attached to a hard surface (for example, on rocks or pilings) or move on the surface of bottom sediments. Epifauna include oysters, mussels, barnacles, snails, starfish, sponges and sea squirts.

Trophic level

Each step along a food chain; an organism’s feeding level.

Nekton

Organisms that are able to swim through the water column and move against currents. Nekton include fish, blue crabs, whales and rays.

See more bay terms.

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