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Track Our Progress

The Chesapeake Bay Program tracks more than 30 environmental indicators to gauge the success of our efforts to protect and restore the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them. Some indicators—like blue crab abundance, water quality and forest cover—track aspects of watershed health. Others—like public access, protected land and open fish passage—track our restoration and protection work.

What Guides Us

Over our long history, the Chesapeake Bay Program has developed a series of written agreements and science-based goals to guide our work. Today, we work under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement: an inclusive, goal-oriented document signed on June 16, 2014, by representatives from the entire watershed. Learn more about this agreement and those we have followed in the past.

Tracking Tools

The Chesapeake Bay Program uses a suite of tools to track our work toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay. These tools are part of ChesapeakeStat: a framework that explains how we are governed, how we work and how we can be held accountable for what we do. Learn more about ChesapeakeProgress, ChesapeakeDecisions and ChesapeakeData.

Indicators: A-Z

This list includes the environmental indicators the Chesapeake Bay Program currently tracks to gauge the success of our efforts to protect and restore the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.

American Shad Abundance

Shad Abundance (2013) American shad form an important link in the Bay food web. Shad feed on zooplankton and are preyed upon by larger fish, including bluefish, weakfish and striped bass. Historically, local economies flourished from the annual shad run in the spring, when the fishes’ upriver migration begins. But shad populations were decimated in the 1970s by overfishing, pollution, and dams and other blockages that prevent the fish from reaching their upstream spawning grounds. (Read More)


Atlantic Menhaden Abundance

Atlantic menhaden play an important ecological role in the Bay. They are food for top predators such as striped bass. The Chesapeake Bay is an important nursery area supporting juvenile menhaden that will contribute to the overall Atlantic coast adult Atlantic menhaden stock. Atlantic menhaden are managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) using a coastwide total allowable catch (TAC) that is allocated among coastal states based on average state landings from 2009 through 2011. An index of abundance is developed from the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) pound net catch-per-unit effort (CPUE) data. This index is currently used by ASMFC as a proxy for relative coastwide abundance, but new indices are being developed through the 2014 benchmark stock assessment that span almost the entire coast. (Read More)


Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management

Atlantic menhaden play an important ecological role in the Bay. They are food for top predators such as striped bass. The Chesapeake Bay is an important nursery area supporting juvenile menhaden that will contribute to the overall Atlantic coast adult Atlantic menhaden stock. Atlantic menhaden are managed under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) using a coastwide total allowable catch (TAC) that is allocated among coastal states based on average state landings from 2009 through 2011.  In order to determine if the coastwide population is overfished, ASMFC uses biological reference points (targets and thresholds) for fishing mortality (F). Fishing mortality is the rate of removal of fish from the population due to fishing, including harvest, discards, and bycatch. (Read More)


Bay Watershed Forest Cover

Forests are crucial to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Forests protect clean air and water, provide habitat to wildlife, store carbon, control floods and support the region’s economy. But human activities have altered the watershed’s forests, reducing tree cover and fragmenting forests that still exist. When forests are destroyed by development, their ecological services and economic benefits are lost. Conserving and expanding forest cover is a critical, cost-effective way to reduce pollution and restore the Bay. (Read More)


Blue Crab Abundance (Spawning-Age Females)

Perhaps no species is more closely associated with the Chesapeake Bay than the blue crab. Blue crabs support commercial and recreational fisheries across the region, and are one of the Bay’s hardiest species. But poor water quality, habitat loss, harvest pressure and natural predation can affect their continued health. Blue crab population levels inform how harvest regulations should or shouldn’t change if we are to maintain a sustainable blue crab stock. (Read More)


Blue Crab Fishery Management

The Chesapeake Bay fishing industry holds tremendous commercial, cultural, and historic value. Perhaps no species is more closely associated with the Bay than the blue crab. Blue crabs support commercial and recreational fisheries across the region, but poor water quality, habitat loss, harvest pressure and natural predation can affect their continued health. Blue crab population levels inform how harvest regulations should or shouldn’t change if we are to maintain a sustainable blue crab stock. (Read More)


Bottom Habitat

Benthic Habitat (Index of Biological Integrity) (2012) Annual Average Score by Sampling Station The benthic community is made up of plants and animals that live on or in the sediment at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Known as benthos, this community includes microscopic plants and small invertebrates like clams, oysters, shrimp-like crustaceans and worms. Because benthos are often unable to move to avoid chemical contaminants, low dissolved oxygen or other environmental stressors, their health is an important indicator of the health of the Bay. (Read More)


Chemical Contaminants

Chemical Contaminants (2012) Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chemical contaminants can be found in the sediment and tissues of fish in the Chesapeake Bay. These contaminants—also known as toxics—can harm human health and affect the survival, growth and reproduction of fish and wildlife. Toxics enter the food web when small, bottom-dwelling organisms take them up while feeding or through direct skin contact. Contaminated organisms pass toxics on to the larger fish, birds and people that eat them. By analyzing the tissues of certain fish species, scientists can estimate the overall presence of toxics in the ecosystem. While toxics are often seen as a local problem occurring in “hot spots” or “regions of concern” (like Baltimore Harbor or the Anacostia and Elizabeth rivers), this indicator shows that chemical contamination can pose a problem outside (Read More)


Chesapeake Bay Watershed Population

Population (2010) Each person that lives in the Chesapeake Bay watershed affects the Bay ecosystem. We consume natural resources; we pollute the air, land and water; and we alter forests and wetlands to fit our needs. The health of our rivers and streams is directly tied to population growth, and the decline of the Bay is correlated with the rise in the number of people that live in its watershed. (Read More)


Dissolved Oxygen (Volume Assessment)

Like animals on land, living creatures in the Chesapeake Bay need oxygen to survive. In the water, oxygen is present in dissolved form. Without adequate concentrations of dissolved oxygen, the Bay’s ability to support aquatic life is compromised. Dissolved oxygen concentrations are an important indicator of nutrient pollution. This is because low dissolved oxygen levels are often the result of nutrient-fueled algae blooms. When algae blooms die and undergo bacterial decomposition, these bacteria use up oxygen in the water, leaving little for fish and shellfish and creating what are known as “dead zones.” Increased nutrient pollution leads to larger algae blooms, which in turn create more dead zones. Over time, large-scale reductions in the amount of nutrients flowing into the Bay will help improve low-oxygen conditions. (Read More)


Health of Freshwater Streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Average 2000-2010 Stream Health in the Chesapeake Bay Sub-watersheds An effective way to measure the health of freshwater streams and rivers is to study the many tiny creatures that live in these waters. The abundance and diversity of snails, mussels, insects and other bottom-dwelling organisms – known as benthic macroinvertebrates – are good indicators of the health of streams because these creatures can’t move very far and they respond in certain predictable ways to pollution and environmental stresses. A healthy Bay watershed would have a majority of streams ranked as fair, good or excellent.  Some generalizations about the health of the watershed’s streams can be made: Streams tend to be in very poor to fair condition around large urban areas, such as metropolitan Washington, D.C. Streams in heavily farmed or mined areas are also often in very poor to fair condition.  These (Read More)


Nitrogen in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Long-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Long-Term Trend in Flow-Adjusted Total Nitrogen Concentration, 1985-2013 Excess nitrogen is among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. But nitrogen concentrations are highly variable, depending on the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers across the watershed. For this reason, scientists calculate flow-adjusted concentration trends to determine whether nitrogen concentrations have changed over time. By examining data that is presented independently of the effects of variations in stream flow, resource managers can better evaluate the changes in stream health that have and could continue to result from pollution-reducing practices or other activities in the watershed. (Read More)


Nitrogen in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Short-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Short-Term Trend in Flow-Adjusted Total Nitrogen Concentration, 2004-2013 Excess nitrogen is among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. But nitrogen concentrations are highly variable, depending on the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers across the watershed. For this reason, scientists calculate flow-adjusted concentration trends to determine whether nitrogen concentrations have changed over time. By examining data that is presented independently of the effects of variations in stream flow, resource managers can better evaluate the changes in stream health that have and could continue to result from pollution-reducing practices or other activities in the watershed. (Read More)


Nitrogen Loads and River Flow to the Bay

Each day, billions of gallons of fresh water flow through thousands of streams and rivers that eventually empty into the Bay. That water also carries polluted runoff from throughout the watershed. The amount of water flowing into the Bay from its tributaries has a direct impact on how much pollution is in the estuary: Generally, as river flow increases, it brings more nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay. Runoff from winter and spring rains delivers pollution loads that drive summer water quality conditions in the Bay. Years with low or high amounts of precipitation can result in changes to pollution levels in the Bay, but not mean the health of the watershed is improving or declining. Not all rain water runs off the land. Some water seeps into the soil, carrying nutrients into groundwater. The travel time of nutrients (Read More)


Nitrogen Yields Measured in Watershed Streams and Rivers

Total Nitrogen Yields Measured in Watershed Streams and Rivers, Mean 2008-2012 Stream quality is associated with lower nutrient loads; therefore, the goal for short-term yields indicator is to observe low nitrogen yields at most monitoring sites in the watershed. (Read More)


Phosphorus in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Long-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Long-Term Trend in Flow-Adjusted Total Phosphorus Concentration, 1985-2013 Excess phosphorus is among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. But phosphorus concentrations are highly variable, depending on the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers across the watershed. For this reason, scientists calculate flow-adjusted concentration trends to determine whether phosphorus concentrations have changed over time. By examining data that is presented independently of the effects of variations in stream flow, resource managers can better evaluate the changes in stream health that have and could continue to result from pollution-reducing practices or other activities in the watershed. (Read More)


Phosphorus in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Short-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Short-Term Trend in Flow-Adjusted Total Phosphorus Concentration, 2004-2013 Excess phosphorus is among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. But phosphorus concentrations are highly variable, depending on the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers across the watershed. For this reason, scientists calculate flow-adjusted concentration trends to determine whether phosphorus concentrations have changed over time. By examining data that is presented independently of the effects of variations in stream flow, resource managers can better evaluate the changes in stream health that have and could continue to result from pollution-reducing practices or other activities in the watershed. (Read More)


Phosphorus Loads and River Flow to the Bay

Each day, billions of gallons of fresh water flow through thousands of streams and rivers that eventually empty into the Bay. That water also carries polluted runoff from throughout the watershed. The amount of water flowing into the Bay from its tributaries has a direct impact on how much pollution is in the estuary: Generally, as river flow increases, it brings more nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay. Runoff from winter and spring rains delivers pollution loads that drive summer water quality conditions in the Bay. Years with low or high amounts of precipitation can result in changes to pollution levels in the Bay, but not mean the health of the watershed is improving or declining. (Read More)


Phosphorus Yields Measured in Watershed Streams and Rivers

Total Phosphorus Yields Measured in Watershed Streams and Rivers, Mean 2008-2012 Stream quality is associated with lower nutrient loads; therefore, the goal for short-term yields indicator is to observe low phosphorus yields at most monitoring sites in the watershed. (Read More)


Planting Forest Buffers

Riparian Forest Buffer Restoration (2013) Forest buffers are trees and other plants that line the banks of waterways. Forest buffers are important because they: Provide wildlife habitat Stabilize stream banks from erosion Keep river water cool, which is important for many fish. Well-maintained forest buffers also absorb pollution, which helps improve the health of neighboring streams and rivers as well as the water downstream. Bay Program partners are planting forest buffers along thousands of miles of streams, creeks and rivers throughout the Bay watershed. (Read More)


Planting Underwater Bay Grasses

Bay Grasses Planted (2011) Underwater bay grasses, or SAV, need clean, clear water to grow and naturally expand. For this reason, efforts to reduce water pollution have a positive influence on restoring bay grasses. In addition to reducing pollution, some Bay Program partners collect seeds and plant bay grasses in the Bay and its rivers. These plantings are located in areas without bay grasses but where water quality should support growth. (Read More)


Protected Lands

Protected Lands 2013 Chesapeake Bay Program partners have identified millions of acres of lands with high conservation value. These lands protect water quality, sustain fish and wildlife, maintain working farms and forests, preserve our history, and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation. But population growth, development and climate change increase pressure on some of the most valuable lands in the watershed. Land is a finite and fragile resource. For decades, our partners have permanently protected from development lands that have cultural, historical, ecological or agricultural value. Partners have purchased properties, accepted donations, arranged for easements and purchased development rights.  Conserving land relies on public support. Reporting on the status of land protection in the watershed can help generate that support and provide transparency related to these efforts. (Read More)


Public Access

2013 Public Access Open, green spaces and waterways with ample public access bolster public health and quality of life. People rely on these special places to exercise, relax, and recharge their spirits. Outdoor time strengthens family bonds and nurtures fit, creative children. At the same time, it builds personal connections with the very places that have shaped life in the region for centuries—especially its streams, rivers, and bays. Public access to natural areas also has a distinct economic value as tourism, much of which is associated with the area’s waters, and is a potent force in the region. The sense of place that evolves from outdoor experiences along Chesapeake waters often leads to a feeling of shared responsibility for the resources. People who enjoy the outdoors are more likely to become active citizen stewards, engaged in the many conservation (Read More)


Reducing Nitrogen Pollution

Excess nitrogen is one of the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. When nitrogen and phosphorus enter rivers, streams and the Bay, they fuel the growth of algae blooms that lead to low-oxygen “dead zones” that are harmful to fish, shellfish and other aquatic life. In general, nitrogen and phosphorus reach the Bay through three sources: wastewater treatment plants; urban, suburban and agricultural runoff; and air pollution. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits the amount of nutrients that can enter the Bay if it is to achieve water quality standards. (Read More)


Reducing Phosphorus Pollution

Excess phosphorus is one of the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. When nitrogen and phosphorus enter rivers, streams and the Bay, they fuel the growth of algae blooms that lead to low-oxygen “dead zones” that are harmful to fish, shellfish and other aquatic life. In general, nitrogen and phosphorus reach the Bay through three sources: wastewater treatment plants; urban, suburban and agricultural runoff; and air pollution. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits the amount of nutrients that can enter the Bay if it is to achieve water quality standards. (Read More)


Reducing Sediment Pollution

Excess sediment is one of the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. While loose particles of sand, silt and clay are natural parts of the environment, too much sediment can cloud the waters of the Bay and its tributaries, harming underwater grasses, fish and shellfish. Sediment enters the Bay when land, stream banks and shorelines erode. Erosion increases when land is cleared for agriculture and development. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits the amount of sediment that can enter the Bay if it is to achieve water quality standards. (Read More)


Reopening Fish Passage

Fish Passage Progress (2013) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Dams, culverts and other barriers block migratory fish from reaching their spawning grounds and reduce habitat for local fish in streams, creeks and rivers. These barriers are being removed or new lifts, ladders and passageways are being installed to allow fish to swim upstream. Priority is given to fish passage restoration projects that open large stretches of habitat, remove dams, enhance migratory fish passage, and remove impediments in streams that were previously affected by acid mine drainage. Many of these projects also restore the flow of waterways and reduce sediment accumulation. (Read More)


Restoring Oyster Reefs

Restoring oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay is a primary part of our strategy to increase native oyster populations and the benefits these reefs provide to fish and shellfish. To rebuild reefs, both oyster shell and alternative materials for oysters to settle and grow upon (like granite, fossil shell or crushed concrete) are placed on hard-bottom areas in select tributaries. Hatchery-raised oyster larvae, called spat, are planted on both natural and man-made reefs. Many of these rebuilt reefs are designated as oyster sanctuaries and protected from harvest. Restoring reefs has the potential to increase populations of spawning adult oysters and, in turn, larval production. Oyster reefs also provide important ecosystem services to the Bay, as the reefs offer habitat to invertebrates and fish and filter-feeding oysters improve water quality. (Read More)


Restoring Wetlands on Agricultural Lands

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. (Read More)


River Flow Into Chesapeake Bay

Each day, billions of gallons of fresh water flow through thousands of streams and rivers that eventually empty into the Bay. That water also carries polluted runoff from throughout the watershed. The amount of water flowing into the Bay from its tributaries has a direct impact on how much pollution is in the estuary: Generally, as river flow increases, it brings more nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay. Runoff from winter and spring rains delivers pollution loads that drive summer water quality conditions in the Bay. Years with low or high amounts of precipitation can result in changes to pollution levels in the Bay, but not mean the health of the watershed is improving or declining. Not all rain water runs off the land. Some water seeps into the soil, carrying nutrients into groundwater. The travel time of nutrients (Read More)


Sediment in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Long-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Long Term Flow-Adjusted Trends in Sediment, 1985-2013 Excess sediment is among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. But sediment concentrations are highly variable, depending on the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers across the watershed. For this reason, scientists calculate flow-adjusted concentration trends to determine whether sediment concentrations have changed over time. By examining data that is presented independently of the effects of variations in stream flow, resource managers can better evaluate the changes in stream health that have and could continue to result from pollution-reducing practices or other activities in the watershed. (Read More)


Sediment in Rivers Entering Chesapeake Bay: Short-Term Flow-Adjusted Concentration Trends

Short-Term Trend in Flow-Adjusted Total Suspended Solids Concentration, 2004-2013 Excess sediment is among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. But sediment concentrations are highly variable, depending on the amount of water flowing in streams and rivers across the watershed. For this reason, scientists calculate flow-adjusted concentration trends to determine whether sediment concentrations have changed over time. By examining data that is presented independently of the effects of variations in stream flow, resource managers can better evaluate the changes in stream health that have and could continue to result from pollution-reducing practices or other activities in the watershed. (Read More)


Sediment Loads and River Flow to the Bay

Each day, billions of gallons of fresh water flow through thousands of streams and rivers that eventually empty into the Bay. That water also carries polluted runoff from throughout the watershed. The amount of water flowing into the Bay from its tributaries has a direct impact on how much pollution is in the estuary: Generally, as river flow increases, it brings more sediment and nutrient pollution to the Bay. Runoff from winter and spring rains delivers pollution loads that drive summer water quality conditions in the Bay. Years with low or high amounts of precipitation can result in changes to pollution levels in the Bay, but not mean the health of the watershed is improving or declining. (Read More)


Sediment Yields Measured in Watershed Streams and Rivers

Sediment Yields Measured in Watershed Streams and Rivers, Mean 2008-2012 Stream quality is associated with lower sediment loads; therefore, the goal for short-term yields indicator is to observe low sediment yields at most monitoring sites in the watershed. (Read More)


Striped Bass Abundance

The Chesapeake Bay is the primary spawning and nursery habitat for striped bass on the East Coast. Striped bass support one of the most important commercial and recreational fisheries on the Atlantic seaboard. The striped bass population rebounded from historic lows in the mid-1980s to highs that exceed the population target. Multi-state fishing moratoria in the late 1980s, as well as commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits set in the 1990s, were successful at rebuilding the stock. Scientists are now concerned about the high prevalence of disease (mycobacteriosis) and whether there are enough prey available to adequately support this predatory fish. (Read More)


Striped Bass Fishery Management

The Chesapeake Bay is the primary spawning and nursery habitat for striped bass on the East Coast. Striped bass support one of the most important commercial and recreational fisheries on the Atlantic seaboard. The striped bass population rebounded from historic lows in the mid-1980s to highs that exceed the population target. Multi-state fishing moratoria in the late 1980s, as well as commercial quotas and recreational harvest limits set in the 1990s, were successful at rebuilding the stock.  In order to determine if the coastwide population is overfished, ASMFC uses reference points (targets and thresholds) for fishing mortality (F). Fishing mortality is the rate of removal of fish from the population due to fishing, including harvest, discards, and bycatch. (Read More)


Striped Bass Juvenile Abundance Index

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most important striped bass breeding habitats on the East Coast, supporting valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. To monitor the reproductive success of striped bass, scientists take annual seine net samples in noted spawning areas. The average number of young-of-the-year striped bass—or rockfish that are less than one year old—in each seine haul is known as the juvenile abundance index. The abundance indices developed in Maryland and Virginia document the annual variation in striped bass year classes and help scientists evaluate the health of the striped bass stock. These indices also serve as early indicators of future adult fish abundance, helping managers predict the amount of adult fish that will be available for commercial and recreational fishermen. (Read More)


Tidal Wetlands Abundance

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. Shoreline development, sea level rise and invasive species pose the biggest threats to tidal wetlands. Development along beaches and shorelines blocks the formation of wetland habitat and sends excess sediment into the Bay. Sea level rise floods wetlands with saltwater, destroying plants faster than they can populate higher ground. And invasive plants and animals can crowd out native species or damage wetland habitat. Chesapeake Bay Program (Read More)


Underwater Bay Grass Abundance (Baywide)

Bay Grasses (SAV) Restoration Goal Achievement: Single Best Year 2011-2013 Restoring underwater grasses to the rivers, streams and shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay will dramatically improve the Bay ecosystem. Grass beds provide food and shelter to fish, crustaceans and other species, add oxygen to the water, absorb nutrient pollution, reduce shoreline erosion and help suspended particles of sediment settle to the bottom. Underwater grasses—also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV—are sensitive to pollution but quick to respond to improvements in water quality. This means their abundance is a good indicator of Bay health. As pollution declines and water clarity improves, scientists expect underwater grasses to expand. (Read More)


Underwater Bay Grass Abundance in Four Salinity Zones

SAV Salinity Zones Restoring underwater grasses to the rivers, streams and shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay will dramatically improve the Bay ecosystem. Grass beds provide food and shelter to fish, crustaceans and other species, add oxygen to the water, absorb nutrient pollution, reduce shoreline erosion and help suspended particles of sediment settle to the bottom. Underwater grasses—also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV—are sensitive to pollution but quick to respond to improvements in water quality. This means their abundance is a good indicator of Bay health. As pollution declines and water clarity improves, scientists expect underwater grasses to expand. (Read More)


Underwater Bay Grass Density

Restoring underwater grasses to the rivers, streams and shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay will dramatically improve the Bay ecosystem. Grass beds provide food and shelter to fish, crustaceans and other species, add oxygen to the water, absorb nutrient pollution, reduce shoreline erosion and help suspended particles of sediment settle to the bottom. Underwater grasses—also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV—are sensitive to pollution but quick to respond to improvements in water quality. This means their abundance is a good indicator of Bay health. As pollution declines and water clarity improves, scientists expect underwater grasses to expand. (Read More)


Wastewater

The Bay cannot be restored without water that is clean, clear and rich in oxygen. Currently, the Bay and its rivers receive too much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment for the ecosystem to remain healthy. Wastewater treatment plant discharges are one of the primary sources of these pollutants. (Read More)


Water Quality Standards Achievement

Excess nutrients and sediment are among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. Both can impact the clarity of water and the amount of algae and oxygen it contains. This indicator measures the achievement of water quality standards in the Bay for each of these environmental factors.  Water quality standards for the Bay were developed in 2003 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within these standards, five aquatic habitats—also called “designated uses”—were identified, each with its own criteria for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/underwater grasses and chlorophyll a. If the Bay and its tidal tributaries are to function as a healthy ecosystem, all designated uses must meet all clean water criteria. (Read More)


Water Quality Standards Achievement for Chlorophyll a

Excess nutrients and sediment are among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. Both can impact the clarity of water and the amount of algae and oxygen it contains. This indicator measures the achievement of water quality standards for chlorophyll a in the Bay. Water quality standards for the Bay were developed in 2003 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within these standards, five aquatic habitats—also called “designated uses”—were identified, each with its own criteria for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/underwater grasses and chlorophyll a. If the Bay and its tidal tributaries are to function as a healthy ecosystem, all designated uses must meet all clean water criteria. (Read More)


Water Quality Standards Achievement for Dissolved Oxygen (Surface Area Assessment)

Excess nutrients and sediment are among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. Both can impact the clarity of water and the amount of algae and oxygen it contains. This indicator measures the achievement of water quality standards in the Bay for the latter environmental factor, known as dissolved oxygen.   Like humans, all of the Bay’s living creatures need oxygen to survive. But the amount of oxygen an animal needs can vary depending on the animal’s size and habitat. Water quality standards for the Bay were developed in 2003 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within these standards, five aquatic habitats—also called “designated uses”—were identified, each with its own criteria for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/underwater grasses and chlorophyll a. If the Bay and (Read More)


Water Quality Standards Achievement for Water Clarity/Underwater Bay Grasses

Excess nutrients and sediment are among the leading causes of the Chesapeake Bay’s poor health. Both can impact the clarity of water and the amount of algae and oxygen it contains. This indicator measures the achievement of water quality standards for water clarity in the Bay. Water quality standards for the Bay were developed in 2003 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within these standards, five aquatic habitats—also called “designated uses”—were identified, each with its own criteria for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/underwater grasses and chlorophyll a. If the Bay and its tidal tributaries are to function as a healthy ecosystem, all designated uses must meet all clean water criteria. (Read More)


Indicators: Archives

This list includes the environmental indicators the Chesapeake Bay Program formerly tracked to gauge the success of our efforts to protect the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them. These indicators are no longer tracked for various reasons. In some cases, the related goal was met. In other cases, the indicator or its tracking method was revised.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Designated

For people to deeply value the Bay and the thousands of streams, creeks and rivers that flow into it, they need access to wildlife and the outdoors. Public access areas allow people to enjoy activities such as fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking and picnicking. Access to natural areas helps people create a personal connection with the Bay watershed and builds support for restoration efforts. (Read More)


Developing Watershed Management Plans

Protecting local watersheds is a complicated and challenging task. Watershed management plans are strategic guides that help local communities protect and restore  streams, forest buffers, wetlands, parks and other natural areas. Watershed plans preserve not only ecological health, but also the quality of life in communities. (Read More)


Education and Interpretation

The long-term health of the environment will depend on the public’s interest in and ability to protect the natural world. Research has shown that an individual’s sense of environmental stewardship can increase alongside experiences with nature. By promoting environmental education at elementary, middle and high schools and by incorporating Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) into formal education, Chesapeake Bay Program partners foster environmental stewardship from an early age. (Read More)


Native Oyster Health

Oysters are a valuable species because they improve water quality, provide habitat for aquatic life and contribute to the region’s economy. Oysters filter water as they feed, which increases water clarity. It is estimated that at their historic population peak, oysters filtered all of the Bay’s water in less than one week. It takes about one year for the current population to do so. Oysters have also constituted one of the Bay’s most valuable commercial fisheries for more than a century. Pollution, historic overharvesting, and the diseases MSX and Dermo have caused the oyster population to decline severely. (Read More)


Water Trails in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

For people to deeply value the Bay and the thousands of streams, creeks and rivers that flow into it, they need access to wildlife and the outdoors. Public access areas allow people to enjoy activities such as fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking and picnicking. Access to natural areas helps people create a personal connection with the Bay watershed and builds support for restoration efforts. (Read More)


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