by Alicia Pimental
April 01, 2009
For the second year in a row, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has given the Bay a C-minus on its annual Chesapeake Bay Health Report Card.
The UMCES report card is the second major assessment of the Chesapeake’s health this year, following the Bay Program’s Bay Barometer, which gave the Bay a score of 38 out of 100. Report cards have also been issued for individual Bay tributaries, including the Magothy, South, Severn and Patuxent rivers.
The C-minus grade for a second year in a row shows that the Bay’s poor conditions have not significantly changed from 2007. However, scientists are intrigued by new long-term trends showing that improving areas continue to get better while degrading areas continue to get worse.
“These diverging positive and negative trajectories in some of the Bay’s key areas show there are important ecological feedbacks that come into play once restoration efforts reach a certain level,” said UMCES Researcher and Project Leader Dr. Bill Dennison.
For example, restoration efforts on the James River in Virginia and the tributaries of Maryland’s upper western shore (including the Bush and Gunpowder rivers) appear to be having a positive influence, as water quality and the health of underwater life continue to improve. In other areas, such as Maryland’s lower western shore tributaries (including the Magothy, Severn and South rivers), nutrient and sediment pollution continue to hinder progress to improve local ecosystem health, according to Dennison.
While the Bay’s overall health earned a C-minus, the health of the 15 “reporting regions” -- individual sections of the Bay and its rivers -- assessed in the report card ranged from a B-minus for the tributaries of the upper western shore of Maryland to an F for the lower western shore tributaries.
The grades for the rest of the reporting regions are:
- D-minus for the Back and Patapsco rivers and the Patuxent River.
- D for the upper Eastern Shore tributaries, the Choptank River and the York River.
- D-plus for the middle Bay.
- C-minus for the Potomac River, the Rappahannock River, Tangier Sound and lower Eastern Shore tributaries, and the lower Bay.
- C for the James River.
- C-plus for the upper Bay.
Visit the Chesapeake EcoCheck website for more information about the 2008 Chesapeake Bay Health Report Card.