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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: Emerald Ash Borer

Learn about efforts to curb the invasive insect that is decimating ash trees

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

Inshore lizardfish
Synodus foetens

The inshore lizardfish can be found coastally from Brazil to Massachusetts, but tends to visit the Chesapeake Bay during the summer and fall.

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 does chicken waste affect the Chesapeake Bay?


Do phytoplankton migrate?


How do you measure dissolved oxygen?


Are there sharks in the Chesapeake Bay?


How are invasive species introduced to the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


How much sediment is trapped behind Conowingo Dam?


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


What does "Chesapeake" mean?


What is a subwatershed?


What are zooplankton?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Total maximum daily load (TMDL)

Defines the pollutant load that a water body can acquire without violating water quality standards, and allocates the pollutant loading between contributing point sources and non-point sources.

Diurnal

An animal that is active during daylight.

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.

Anthropogenic

Caused by humans.

Flagellum

A long, threadlike or whip-like appendage found in certain cells or unicellular organisms that helps the cells move.

Easement

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

Test Term 00

Arthropod

A diverse group of invertebrates that have jointed legs and an exoskeleton, or external skeleton. Aquatic arthropods include horseshoe crabs and crustaceans like blue crabs and barnacles. Terrestrial arthropods include insects, scorpions and spiders

See more bay terms.

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