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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: Wetlands

Wetlands are important wildlife habitat that also help improve water quality 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

Broad-headed Skink
Plestiodon laticep

The broad-headed skink is the largest skink in the Chesapeake region and can be found in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

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 are underwater grasses important?


How do forest buffers protect water quality?


What is stormwater runoff?


What does "Chesapeake" mean?


How much sediment is trapped behind Conowingo Dam?


Do phytoplankton migrate?


What pollutes rivers and streams?


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


How do people cause underwater grasses to die?


Are there sharks in the Chesapeake Bay?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Roe

The eggs or egg mass of a fish.

Nematocyst

Stinging cells found on jellyfish and anemones. The “sting” is caused by a coiled, thread-like tube that is propelled outward for defense and to capture food.

Environmental data

Any measurements or information that describe environmental processes, location or conditions; ecological or health effects and consequences; or the performance of environmental technology. For EPA, environmental data include information collected directly from measurements, produced from models and compiled from other sources such as databases or literature.

Pathogen

A bacterium, virus or other microorganism that can cause disease.

Echinoderm

A marine invertebrate animal that has tube feet and five-part radial symmetry. Sea stars and sea cucumbers are both echinoderms, which means “spiny-skinned.”

Niche

The particular area within a habitat that an organism lives and functions in.

Introduced species

A species that has been intentionally or inadvertently brought into a region or area. Also called an exotic or non-native species.

Range

The geographic area in which a plant or animal lives.

See more bay terms.

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