Models for Conservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

By Sharon Behn

Sustainable ChesapeakeWith its vast shoreline of 11,684 miles and shallow waters, the lands edging the Chesapeake Bay are among the most vulnerable in the country to sea level rise and storm surge. And the relative sea level in the Bay has risen approximately one foot in the last century, nearly twice the global average.

“Analyses indicate that the Bay will be dramatically altered by climate change and that sea level rise should be a major consideration in the region’s coastal management and ecological restoration plans,” the Conservation Fund states in its latest publication, A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation.

Those analyses have now been joined with storm surge data, forming an even more urgent picture of change, according to the Conservation Fund .

In A Sustainable Chesapeake, David Burke and Joel Dunn warn that “rising temperatures and deeper waters are likely to alter Bay ecosystem dynamics, affecting fisheries, plants and terrestrial wildlife as well as endangering man-made infrastructure.”

These changes also will result in “shoreline erosion, loss of islands, coastal flooding, wetlands retreat, saltwater intrusion and inundation of some coastal areas,” they write.

The Conservation Fund, an organization that partners with community, government and corporate entities to balance economic and environmental goals, has developed a series of maps that detail the potential impacts of  these effects on the natural infrastructure, built infrastructure and wildlife along the Bay.

The maps — created in response to “the need for society to prepare for and adapt to the predicted changes”  –  focus on the Potomac along the capital, the Hampton roads area and the lower Eastern shore of Maryland.

Divided into six sections, Climate Change Solutions, Stream Restoration, Green Infrastructure, Incentive Driven Conservation, Watershed Protection, and Stewardship,  A Sustainable Chesapeake details 30 case studies, complete with maps and snapshots of innovative computer modeling techniques, of the work of government, private organizations and others have done in the Bay watershed.

The book ( is an essential read for anyone interested in the Bay.

About Us

Bay on the Brink is a multimedia reporting project examining the fate of the Chesapeake Bay. It is produced by fellows at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism as part of News21, a consortium of journalism schools. This is the fellows' blog. The full project site is here:
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A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr