Chesapeake Bay Program: Connecting Water Quality with Ecosystem Restoration and Conservation

Allie Wagner1, Morgan Corey1, Breck Maura Sullivan2, Laurel Abowd1 and Cuiyin Wu1, (1)Chesapeake Research Consortium, Edgewater, MD, United States, (2)Chesapeake Research Consortium @ USEPA Chesapeake Bay Program, Edgewater, MD, United States
The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a unique regional partnership that embraces ecosystem-based management (EBM) by supporting restoration at a watershed scale, working across jurisdictions with an integrated, scientific approach. The CBP is guided by the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which outlines goals for abundant life, clean water, climate resiliency, conserved lands, and engaged communities. The partnership emphasizes a common commitment to collaboration and adaptation. In a series of talks, we will highlight how the CBP demonstrates EBM with three interdependent themes: 1) restoration and water quality, 2) scientific assessment and reporting, and 3) adaptive partnerships.

In the first theme, we draw connections between water quality, ecosystem restoration, and conservation. The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits the amount of nutrients and sediment delivered to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to meet water quality standards. The seven Chesapeake Bay watershed jurisdictions developed Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to outline what actions they will take to achieve the TMDL, providing greater transparency and accountability for management action. The WIP process offers opportunities to maximize benefits for fisheries and water quality through best management practice (BMP) selection and implementation. We aim to understand the cumulative effects and trade-offs of BMP use while balancing CBP resources.

We will highlight several living resource case studies to show the approaches used and lessons learned from EBM. Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) are a known indicator of Chesapeake Bay health and have experienced recovery due to nutrient reductions since the 1980s. Oyster reefs, once decimated, are showing a promising recovery through tributary-scale restoration and serve as filter-feeders contributing to improved water quality. Both habitats provide additional ecosystem services supporting valuable fisheries like blue crab. These connections demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of the CBP.