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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

Loggerhead Turtle
Caretta caretta

Named for its large head and powerful jaw, the loggerhead turtle visits the Chesapeake Bay from May to November to forage and will nest on nearby barrier islands.

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


What is fish passage?


What is dissolved oxygen?


What is an ecosystem?


What are the most common chemical contaminants found in the Chesapeake Bay?


What is a watershed?


What is atmospheric deposition?


What is ocean acidification?


What are phytoplankton?


Which rivers and streams flow into the Chesapeake Bay?


What large cities are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Marsh

A border habitat that connects shorelines to forests and wetlands. Marshes are found in fresh, brackish and salt water areas.

Abundance index

Information obtained from samples or observations that is used to measure the weight or number of fish that make up a stock.

Tidal marsh

A type of marsh in which the flooding characteristics are determined by the tidal movement of the adjacent river, estuary, sea or ocean.

Lag-time

The span of time between the adoption of a pollution-reducing practice and the visible effects of that practice on a particular waterway.

Flagellum

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

Invertebrate

An animal that lacks a backbone. Aquatic invertebrates include squids, shrimps, crabs, mollusks and sea stars.

Siltation

The process by which sediment is suspended and deposited in a body of water. Also referred to as sedimentation.

Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN)

Nitrogen that is readily usable by plants.

See more bay terms.

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