After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

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Author Archives: Bill Dennison

Chesapeake Nutrient Trajectories: A New Data Analysis Reveals the Real Story

Posted by Bill Dennison.

Bob Hirsch and co-workers at the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a new method of analyzing long-term trends in nutrients that enter Chesapeake Bay from the rivers or tributaries that flow into the Bay. This method accounts for seasonal changes and year-to-year variation in flow, so that one can see the “forest for the trees.” The difficulty in analyzing flow and nutrients that enter Chesapeake Bay is the high degree of variability (or noise) in the data, making it difficult to discern trends, particularly long-term trends. Bob was able to use daily water flow data over a 31-year period, stretching from 1978 until 2008 from nine sites around Chesapeake Bay. Bob took these 100,000+ daily streamflow measurements and combined them with 13,000+ nutrient measurements to come up with daily nutrient loading estimates at each site. Then he was able to calculate a “flow-normalized daily flux,” which takes out the variations in flow due to weather. In this way, the long-term trends could be distinguished from the short-term variations. Continue Reading

Our New Year’s resolution: Looking after our own backyards

Posted by Bill Dennison.

The recently released Chesapeake Bay Foundation report provided a Bay-wide assessment of the status of Chesapeake Bay as a whole. While this high altitude view of Chesapeake Bay gauged against the John Smith Chesapeake Bay of the early 1600s is useful as a benchmark, it does not readily translate into local action. This is because of the immense scale of Chesapeake Bay, especially considering the scale of the Chesapeake watershed. Continue Reading

Why is Chesapeake Bay so vulnerable (and productive)?

(Posted by Bill Dennison.) Chesapeake Bay is particularly vulnerable to human impacts and incredibly productive for three basic reasons.  1) The first of these reasons is that Chesapeake Bay is an estuary, a place where fresh and salt water mix.  2) The second of these reasons is due to the geographic setting; geomorphology and hydrography…Continue Reading

Why Chesapeake Bay is the Best Studied Estuary in the World

(Posted by Bill Dennison) Chesapeake Bay is one of the best studied coastal regions on the globe.  There are several reasons for this intensive research effort.  1) Chesapeake Bay has and continues to be incredibly productive in terms of fisheries resources (particularly crabs, oysters and fish).  2) Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries…Continue Reading

Do We Need Any More Science to Restore Chesapeake Bay?

(Posted by Bill Dennison)

Chesapeake Bay is arguably the best studied estuary in the world, with a long history of scientific research culminating in theses, scientific journal articles, scientific society activities including workshops and conferences. Many of the paradigms on how estuaries work have been developed through studies of Chesapeake Bay. This leads to the question posed in the title, “Do we need any more science to restore Chesapeake Bay?”. Many people have said to me that we know enough already and we don’t need more science, we just need to get on with the restoration. These comments are in part a result of the frustration that we have not more made more progress in Chesapeake restoration. Research can, in fact, be used as a delaying tactic if restoration activities are forced to wait for more data. Researchers can be complicit in the criticism if they allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good or if they simply document the decline and focus solely on the problems, rather than the solutions.
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