Study shows efforts to heal Chesapeake Bay are working; CBF President Responds “This study is another encouraging sign that after years of hard work the Bay is showing some very early signs of improvement. That’s good news."
Efforts to reduce the flow of fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay appear to be giving a boost to the bay’s health, a new study that analyzed 60 years of water quality data has concluded. The study, published in the November 2011 issue of Estuaries and Coasts, was conducted by researchers from The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
The team found that the size of mid- to late-summer oxygen-starved “dead zones,” where plants and water animals cannot live, leveled off in deep channels of the bay during the 1980s and has been declining ever since. The timing is key because in the 1980s, a concerted effort to cut nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay was initiated through the multistate-federal Chesapeake Bay Program. The goal was to restore the water quality and health of the bay.
“I was really excited by these results because they point to improvement in the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” said lead author Rebecca R. Murphy, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins. “We now have evidence that cutting back on the nutrient pollutants pouring into the bay can make a difference. I think that’s really significant.”
Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, agreed. “This study shows that our regional efforts to limit nutrient pollution may be producing results,” he said. “Continuing nutrient reduction remains critically important for achieving bay restoration goals.”
The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary, a body of water where fresh and salt water mix. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the bay is about 200 miles long, has about roughly 4,480 square miles of surface area and supports more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and other animals.
But the bay’s health deteriorated during much of the 20th century, contributing to a drop in the Chesapeake’s fish and shellfish populations. Environmental experts blamed this largely on a surge of nutrients entering the bay from sources such as farm fertilizer, animal waste, water treatment
Will Baker, President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued this statement in response to the study,
“We’re right at the edge of something really special. This study is another encouraging sign that after years of hard work the Bay is showing some very early signs of improvement. That’s good news," said Baker. "But there is more good news. We have a bi-partisan plan created by the states and the federal government to get the Bay over the goal line by 2025. The plan is tough and it has teeth. But some extremely powerful special corporate interests are trying to kill it in court and in Congress. We are in the fight of our lives and we need everyone’s help.”