Studies say the Chesapeake Bay is significantly healthier and is showing signs of improvement for the first time.
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Chesapeake Bay Report Card breaks down the health of different aspects of the bay, and now it is saying the positive trajectory that has been reported in recent years is "statistically significant."
“This is exciting news. It is the first time that the Chesapeake Bay report card scores are significantly trending in the right direction. We have seen individual regions improving before, but not the entire Chesapeake Bay. It seems that the restoration efforts are beginning to take hold,” said Dr. Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Research shows that five of the seven indicators of Bay health has improved or remained the same since 2017. This includes the benthic community, aquatic grasses, total nitrogen, chlorophyll a, and dissolved oxygen. Also, aquatic grasses improved to the highest level ever recorded, which is important because they are home to blue crabs, striped bass, and other species that are necessary for Bay restoration.
“Underwater grasses are sentinels of change in the shallow waters of Chesapeake Bay,” said Dr. Robert Orth, Professor of Marine Biology at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “Not only are we seeing more grasses in areas where they’ve been thriving like the Susquehanna Flats, but we’re actually seeing them appear in areas around Solomons Island and in the York River where they vanished decades ago.”
And it's not only wildlife improving, seven out of fifteen regions have also improved. They include the Patapsco River, Back River, Upper Western Shore, Elizabeth River, and James River.
While most of the report was good news, officials say there is still progress to be made.
"While we can celebrate progress being made in the restoration of Chesapeake Bay, we can’t take our foot off of the accelerator,” said Dr. Peter Goodwin, President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "It is critically important that we continue to invest in science and monitoring to improve management actions which ensure that the Bay continues on its path to recovery."