by Alicia Pimental
January 25, 2011
The Maryland Commission on Climate Change has released a report outlining strategies to reduce the effects of climate change on Maryland’s land, water and people.
The report, called the Phase II Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change: Building Societal, Economic and Ecological Resilience, includes a section devoted to the Chesapeake Bay and aquatic ecosystems. More than 80 experts worked together to develop the strategy.
Maryland state agencies will use the Phase II Strategy along with its companion, the Phase I Strategy for Sea Level Rise and Coastal Storms (2008), to guide and prioritize their policies on adapting to climate change.
With more than 3,000 miles of shoreline, Maryland is the fourth most vulnerable state to climate change and rising sea levels in the nation. Because the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, the effects of climate change here have implications for similar bays and ecosystems.
The report’s chapter on Bay and Aquatic Ecosystems concludes that climate change will alter the distribution of species and habitats in Maryland, and may in fact worsen conditions that are already putting stress on these species and habitats. Rising temperatures, precipitation shifts and sea level rise are all expected to affect aquatic plants, animals and their habitats.
Climate change is also expected to alter the interactions between humans and the Bay. Fisheries and recreational opportunities may diminish due to sea level rise. Wetlands in the state may become degraded, limiting the protection of sensitive shorelines during storms.
The report offers recommendations for Maryland to reduce current stressors on the Bay and aquatic ecosystems as well as proactive steps to stop future damage. These include increasing monitoring and assessment to guide future decision-making and assessing current management efforts used to protect critical habitats and ecosystem services.
In particular, the report recommends protecting coastal habitats and streamside forest buffers to address land use changes along the state’s waterways.
For more information about the report and the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, visit Maryland’s website.