MEPS - Vol. 303 - Feature article

Satellite image of Chesapeake Bay shows a portion of its watershed from which increasing nutrient inputs have altered the estuary’s ecological structure (Satellite image from MODIS, visibleearth.nasa.gov)

W. M. Kemp, W. R. Boynton, J. E. Adolf, D. F. Boesch, W. C. Boicourt, G. Brush, J. C. Cornwell, T. R. Fisher, P. M. Glibert, J. D. Hagy, L. W. Harding, E. D. Houde, D. G. Kimmel, W. D. Miller, R. I. E. Newell, M. R. Roman, E. M. Smith, J. C. Stevenson

 

Eutrophication of Chesapeake Bay: historical trends and ecological interactions

 

Coastal eutrophication has altered the ecology of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the USA. Ecological changes, inferred from sediment indices, appear first in 200 year-old strata. During the last 50 years, nutrient enrichment resulted in loss of seagrasses and depletion of dissolved oxygen, both of which have degraded bottom habitats. These stresses decreased key biogeochemical processes and animal populations and shifted fisheries harvest from species living near the seabed to those in upper waters. The trends are exacerbated by human- and climate-induced declines in once vast oyster beds and fringing marshes which historically served as natural nutrient filters. Complex ecological relationships have retarded recovery of some Bay habitats following nutrient input reductions.

 

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