A Restored Chesapeake Bay Hanging in the Balance
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This Week in the Watershed

Tangier Island Marsh-1200
A study released this week found that salt marshes are more resilient to sea-level rise than previously thought. Healthy salt marshes will help protect Chesapeake Bay coastal communities, such as Tangier Island. Photo by Deb Snelson.

In many of Chesapeake Bay's coastal communities, climate change is an unavoidable reality. While warming waters threaten healthy fisheries and more frequent and intense storms endanger property values, it is sea-level rise which likely presents the greatest danger. Notably, tidal flooding is rapidly becoming routine. While this might currently be perceived as just a nuisance, computer models suggest the trend is only going to worsen.

This week, however, brought some good news in combating sea-level rise. A study released by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) found that salt marshes, which are common around the Chesapeake Bay, are more resistant to sea-level rise than previously thought. Indeed, according to Matt Kirwan of VIMS, lead author of the study, salt marshes are able to "fight back" against sea-level rise. This is evidenced by salt marshes building at rates two to three times faster when flooded than when not flooded. When these findings were integrated into computer models, it was found that the marshes migrated and expanded inland. This presents the opportunity to use salt marshes as natural infrastructure to combat sea-level rise throughout the Chesapeake Bay, a practice which other low-lying countries throughout the world are implementing.

In addition to the encouraging findings of salt marshes, the Maryland Senate took a bold step toward combating the cause of climate change, by requiring the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. These reductions will not only alleviate climate change, but it will also clean the air while creating green jobs throughout the state.

Climate change might be an unavoidable reality for the foreseeable future, but capitalizing on natural infrastructure and implementing smart, science-backed policies are great steps. This is true not only in combating climate change but also in the fight to Save the Bay, championed by the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

This Week in the Watershed: Aquaculture, Rising Waters, and #PoultryAct

  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial in support of oyster aquaculture as a strong policy on both the economic and ecological level. (Bay Journal)
  • Maryland's Senate took a big step towards clean air, approving legislation that requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. (Washington Post—D.C.)
  • Sea-level rise is a major threat to coastal communities, but a recent study claims that one landscape thought to be vulnerable to rising seas is actually quite resilient. (Daily Press—VA) 
  • Virginia legislators have stepped up to the plate, providing strong funding for measures that reduce pollution from agriculture and sewage treatment plants. (CBF Statement)
  • The first hearings for the Poultry Litter Management Act in Maryland were this week. The legislation seeks to make large poultry companies responsible for excess chicken manure. (Star Democrat—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

March 3

  • Gloucester Point, VA: CBF’s Virginia Oyster Restoration Center needs volunteers to assist with shell washing. Shells collected through CBF's recycling program will be run through a mechanized shell washer. The clean shells will be bagged up and placed in large tanks for use in oyster restoration efforts. Please RSVP by contacting Heather North at hnorth@cbf.org or call 757-632-3804.


 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


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