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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

Rusty Crayfish
Orconectes rusticus

The rusty crayfish is an invasive species that can be found in some rivers and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. It has a spot on either side of its back that is rusty in color.

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


What is the Chesapeake Bay's salinity range?


How can I find out what watershed I live in?


How is salt water brought into the Chesapeake Bay?


How many rivers and streams are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


What are the effects of poor water clarity?


How long do blue crabs live?


Are there invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


How does farming affect the Chesapeake Bay?


What is a tributary?


Do blue crabs put on weight before winter hibernation?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Impervious

A hardened surface or area that does not allow water to pass through. For example, roads, rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, pools, patios and parking lots are all impervious surfaces.

Dry deposition

Pollutants in the air that fall onto the land or water as dry particles, without the aid of precipitation.

Niche

The particular area within a habitat that an organism lives and functions in.

Range

The geographic area in which a plant or animal lives.

Nitrogen

A type of nutrient that contributes to the Bay’s poor water quality. While nitrogen is needed for plant growth, human activities—like driving cars or applying fertilizers—contribute more nitrogen than the Bay’s waters can handle. Elevated nitrogen levels cause more algae to grow, blocking out sunlight and reducing oxygen for fish, crabs and other Bay life.

Algae bloom

A dense population of algae whose growth is fueled by excess nutrients. Algae blooms can block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, and their decomposition can rob the water of dissolved oxygen and suffocate marine life.

Introduced species

A species that has been intentionally or inadvertently brought into a region or area. Also called an exotic or non-native species.

Cephalopod

A type of mollusk. The brief squid is the only cephalopod common to the Chesapeake Bay.

See more bay terms.

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