Climate Change Indicators for the Chesapeake Bay Program: An Implementation Strategy

Eastern Research Group, Inc. and the Chesapeake Bay Program
Posted on: 1/04/2021 - Updated on: 1/05/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



Project Purpose and Background

In 2016, the Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO) began an effort to identify a suite of indicators that can be used to track and analyze trends, impacts, and progress towards advancing “climate resiliency.” The chief aim of this initiative is to track progress toward the climate resiliency goal and outcomes in the 2014 Watershed Agreement:

Goal: Increase the resiliency of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including its living resources, habitats, public infrastructure, and communities, to withstand adverse impacts from changing environmental and climate conditions.

  • Monitoring and Assessment outcome: Continually monitor and assess the trends and likely impacts of changing climatic and sea level conditions on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, including the effectiveness of restoration and protection policies, programs and projects.
  • Adaptation outcome: Continually pursue, design, and construct restoration and protection projects to enhance the resiliency of Bay and aquatic ecosystems from the impacts of coastal erosion, coastal flooding, more intense and more frequent storms and sea-level rise.

To address all facets of the climate resiliency goal and outcomes, the CBPO sought a balance of indicators across three categories:

  • Indicators of physical climate trends based on measurements of physical or chemical attributes of the environment.
  • Indicators of ecological and societal impact that measure a) attributes of ecological systems, particularly attributes that may be influenced by physical climate trends, or b) impacts on society, such as health or economic outcomes.
  • Indicators of programmatic progress toward resilience that quantify resilience or show evidence of learning or adaptation over time.

The CBPO contracted with Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG) to conduct research and lead a systematic, participatory process to identify candidate indicator topics; prioritize topics to include as part of a manageable, cohesive suite of indicators; and lay out an approach to develop each of the proposed indicators. The CBPO has expressed an interest in developing a suite of indicators that is large enough to cover a wide range of important climate-related issues, yet small enough that it will be feasible to maintain all the indicators with periodic (in many cases, annual) data updates for the foreseeable future. After careful consideration of the scope, ERG recommended a target number of approximately 20 indicators.

About This Implementation Plan

ERG developed this implementation plan to fulfill the following objectives:

  • Lay out an initial vision for each indicator in the proposed suite.
  • Describe a stepwise process that could be used to develop each indicator.
  • For each step in the process, identify likely resource needs to the extent possible, in terms of tools, expertise, CBPO staff time, and funding to engage outside partners if needed.

For each indicator, this plan identifies the status of current development and describes actions and next steps for five general stages of indicator development:

  1. Defining the indicator
  2. Collecting data
  3. Developing methods to transform the data into an indicator
  4. Processing the data
  5. Developing a final indicator for the Chesapeake region

This plan is not set in stone. Rather, it is a “living” document, intended to provide guidance and ideas as a starting point for further discussion, development, and engagement with additional partners.