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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

Spotted Sandpiper
Actitis macularius

The spotted sandpiper is a medium-sized shorebird that can be found throughout the Chesapeake region during the summer.

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 people cause underwater grasses to die?


What are zooplankton?


How much dissolved oxygen do the Bay's animals need?


Why has the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population declined over time?


Why are underwater grasses important?


How long do blue crabs live?


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


How do airborne pollutants move?


What is the difference between epifauna and infauna?


How is salt water brought into the Chesapeake Bay?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Gastropod

The largest class of mollusks. Gastropods have a one-piece shell (univalve) or no shell at all, and travel by using a single large muscular foot. Snails and slugs are gastropods.

Year class

All of the fish of any species that hatched during one annual spawning period.

Biomass

The amount of a living species, expressed as a concentration or weight per unit area.

Parapodia

Paired appendages or feet found on each segment of bristle worms and other segmented marine worms.

Salinity regime

Water distinguished by its salinity and tidal influence. The major salinity regimes are tidal fresh, oligohaline (brackish), mesohaline (moderately salty) and polyhaline (salty).

Hermaphroditic

A plant or animal that has both male and female reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics.

Point source

A source of pollution that can be attributed to a specific physical location - an identifiable, end-of-pipe “point.” The vast majority of point source discharges of nutrients are from wastewater treatment plants, although some come from industries. 

Easement

A limited right to use a part of land owned by another person or organization.

See more bay terms.

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