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Discover the Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the United States - is an incredibly complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and food webs. The Bay and its rivers, wetlands and forests provide homes, food and protection for diverse groups of animals and plants. Fish of all types and sizes either live in the Bay and its tributaries year-round or visit its waters as they migrate along the East Coast.

Bay 101

Select a category below to view videos from our Bay Program video library. Prior to using any of these videos, please view our terms of use to learn about usage rights.


Bay 101: Fish Food

Find out what larger fish like striped bass and bluefish eat to survive in the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. Watersheds are sometimes called “basins” or "drainage basins."

We all live in a watershed. Some watersheds, like that of your local stream or creek, are small. Others, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, are very large. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among living and non-living things. Air, water, soil, sunlight, plants and animals – including humans – make up an ecosystem. Ecosystems can be as tiny as a patch of dirt in your backyard, or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is an extremely productive and complex ecosystem. The Bay ecosystem consists of the Bay itself, its local rivers and streams, and all the plants and animals it supports. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Critter Of The Month

Woodchuck
Marmota monax

Also known as the groundhog, the woodchuck is found throughout the Chesapeake region and hibernates from October to February.

Chesapeake History

2014

2014
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which contains goals and outcomes that will guide conservation and restoration across the watershed. For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states commit to those goals that reach beyond water quality.

2013

2013
  • A federal judge rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, thus upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that was challenged in court in 2011.

2012

2012
  • Harris Creek becomes the first target of the oyster restoration goals set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order: to restore oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025. In this Choptank River tributary, existing reefs will be studied, new bars will be built and spat-on-shell will be planted.

2011

2011
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit to the District of Columbia. It is the first of its kind to incorporate green infrastructure into its requirements, setting a national model for stormwater management.

2010

2010
  • Maryland, Virginia and New York ban phosphates in dishwasher detergent to lower phosphorous pollution in local waterways.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes the Total Maximum Daily Load to limit the amount of pollutants that can enter the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay Program launches ChesapeakeStat to improve communication about restoration goals, progress and funding.

Bay FAQ


How does groundwater become polluted?


What is an anadromous fish?


How big is the Chesapeake Bay?


Is the Chesapeake Bay's water salty?


How rapid is sea level rising in the Chesapeake Bay?


What is atmospheric deposition?


How does a loss of underwater grasses affect other parts of the Chesapeake Bay?


What produces air pollution?


What is an airshed?


How do grasses grow underwater?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Quality Assurance (QA)

An integrated system of management activities involving planning, implementation, documentation, assessment, reporting and quality improvement to ensure that a process, item or service is of the type and quality needed and expected by the customer.

Dorsal

Relating to or situated on an animal’s back.

Detrivore

Any organism that gets most of its nutrients from the detritus in an ecosystem.

Palps

Sensory appendages located near the mouth on many invertebrates that are used to move and sense food.

Hydrophyte

A plant that grows only in or on water or very moist soil.

Photosynthesis

The process by which plants convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. These carbohydrates are used as energy by the plants or by organisms that consume the plants. Photosynthesis is also called primary production.

Designated use

The description of an appropriate intended use by humans and/or aquatic life for a water body. Designated uses for a water body may include recreation, shellfishing, water supply and/or aquatic life habitat.

Herbivore

An animal that eats plants.

See more bay terms.

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