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Restoring Wetlands on Agricultural Lands

Between 2010 and 2014, 6,191 acres of wetlands were established, rehabilitated or reestablished on agricultural lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Program has a goal to create or reestablish 85,000 acres of wetlands by 2025. Under this goal, 83,000 acres should be created or reestablished on agricultural lands. Just over seven percent of the wetlands on agricultural lands goal has been achieved.



Importance

Healthy wetlands are vital to a healthy Chesapeake Bay. Located where land meets water, wetlands trap polluted runoff and slow of the flow of nutrients, sediment and chemical contaminants into rivers, streams and the Bay. By soaking up stormwater and dampening storm surges, wetlands slow the erosion of shorelines and protect properties from floods. Wetlands also provide critical habitat for fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates, and support recreational fishing and hunting across the watershed.

Land purchases and conservation easements can protect wetland habitat. The removal of invasive species—like phragmites, purple loosestrife or nutria—can help rehabilitate degraded wetlands.

Goal

In 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Program adopted a goal to create or reestablish 85,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands by 2025. This goal is based on the wetland restoration targets outlined in the Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) that will help jurisdictions meet the goals of the Bay’s “pollution diet,” or Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Under this target, 83,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands should be created or reestablished on agricultural lands; as of 2014, 7.45 percent of the wetlands on agricultural lands goal has been achieved. 

Amount Completed Since 2010 (baseline year)

Between 2010 and 2014, 6,191 acres of wetlands were established, rehabilitated or reestablished on agricultural lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Amount Completed in 2014

In 2014, 93 acres of wetlands were established, rehabilitated or reestablished on agricultural lands in the Bay watershed.

Maryland, New York and Virginia reported more than 90 percent of the wetland acres restored in 2014, with the states reporting 24, 29 and 32 acres restored, respectively. Pennsylvania reported a one-acre gain, Delaware reported a two-acre gain and West Virginia reported a five-acre gain. 

Additional Information

Data

All data reported here reflect only those wetlands established, rehabilitated or reestablished on agricultural lands. Because these wetlands provide valuable habitat (among other services), they are considered functional and of benefit. While Chesapeake Bay Program partners report wetlands established or reestablished in urban areas, these data are not included here. Some wetlands established or reestablished in urban areas (like urban stormwater ponds) are done so to capture stormwater runoff and are not considered valuable habitat.

Since 2010, data used for this indicator have come from the Bay Program’s Watershed Model scenario input deck. Input deck data were developed using state submissions (reported through the National Environmental Information Exchange Network) and the Bay Program’s Scenario Builder tool. Wetlands restoration data previously reported for this indicator were collected in a different manner and did not account for work in Delaware, New York or West Virginia.

Functional Gains vs. Acreage Gains

Not all of the wetlands accounted for in this indicator are functional. They are present, but do not necessarily benefit the Bay. While projects that result in functional gains on existing wetlands are ecologically beneficial, such projects are different than those that result in an actual gain of wetland acreage. Therefore, they are tracked separately for purposes of clarity and accuracy.

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