Watershed Management Conservation in a Changing Climate
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, fed by a watershed that stretches from mountains to sea, across 64,000 square miles. The Chesapeake Bay, along with Maryland’s streams and coastal bays, provides a multitude of benefits to Maryland’s citizens, including economic and natural resource benefits. Maryland’s extensive aquatic ecosystems range from freshwater swamps and bogs to freshwater rivers and marshes to coastal bays and salt marshes. These ecosystems are influenced by precipitation, temperature, tropical storms, and human activity. Human development and pollution have degraded their natural resilience, leaving them more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events.One hundred years of data show that Maryland is getting warmer on average by 1.8°F but by as much as 3.6°F in the winter. Warmer air holds more moisture, so we should expect changes in our rainfall. Over the last century, Maryland has become wetter in March and autumn and drier in July and August. For aquatic ecosystems this may alter salinity in the Bay and impact streamflow and stream temperature, all of which could shift where species live and affect watershed restoration projects.