The Chesapeake Bay’s health slightly increased last year, improving from a C-minus to a C, according to a yearly report from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES).
Individual indicators included in the 2020 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Report Card, released on Tuesday, illustrated mixed results in 2020, but the overall Bay-wide trend showed improvement.
The report found that seven out of 15 regions significantly improved health trends.
“UMCES scientists continue to lead the way on assessing not just the environment, but also the social and economic factors that influence ecosystem health. This year’s report card provides new insights in our journey of restoring the Chesapeake Bay,” Peter Goodwin, president of the UMCES, said in a statement.
“Improvements in our environment go hand-in-hand with improvements in our communities particularly those that are traditionally disadvantaged,” he added.
The report included new indicators for watershed health, including stewardship, protected lands, walkability and heat vulnerability.
Dissolved oxygen and total nitrogen scores improved, according to the report, and chlorophyll a and total phosphorus scores decreased. Additionally, water clarity, benthic community and aquatic grass scores all slightly declined.
The report noted, however, that from March to May there was a monitoring gap, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The effects of the pandemic on the Chesapeake Bay’s health ecosystem is not net known, other than a decrease in atmospheric nitrogen, which has a declining trend that was continued due to the reduction in travel last year, according to the report.
“Our close collaboration with partners at the federal, state, and local levels will continue to improve the long-term vitality of the Chesapeake Bay,” Rep. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesDemocrats push to shield election workers from violent threats Rep. Bush drives calls for White House action on eviction moratorium lapse Chesapeake Bay's health increases slightly to a C MORE (D-Md.), who serves as co-chair of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force, said in a statement.
He commended the UMCES and advocates across the U.S., adding “Although we have lots of work ahead of us, I am confident that our shared commitments will help ensure that the Chesapeake Bay remains one of America’s great environmental treasures for generations to come.”
The report included definitions for the four new indicators included in this year’s report: stewardship, protected lands, walkability and heat vulnerability.
The Stewardship Index focuses on “actions that residents are taking to support the Bay, volunteerism, and civic engagement," according to the report.
The Protected Lands indicator, according to the report, measures valuable lands protected in the watershed that keep up with water quality and habitat, sustain forests, farms and communities and back cultural, indigenous and community values.
The UMCES said the Heat Vulnerability Index concentrates on “climate safe neighborhoods throughout the watershed,” including information on tree canopy, impervious surface, temperature and poverty.
Finally, Walkability refers to the number of people that can walk to a park in 10 minutes.
The UMCES gave the Chesapeake watershed a B- grade for 2020, which, according to The Associated Press, is the same mark it received in 2019.