Chesapeake Bay 2018 Report Card: Watershed’s Health Declines Due to Heavy Rainfall

Bay Journal article (2019-05-22) reported that in its recently released 2018 report card, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) gave the Chesapeake Bay a lower health score than in 2017. The drop from 54% to 46% was primarily due to the region’s extremely level of rainfall. Despite the eight-percentage point drop, the Bay still maintained an overall health grade of “C.”

The article indicated that the Bay received its lowest grade from the UMCES report card since 2013 and was the first time in four years that the Bay’s grade actually declined. However, despite the loss, the article indicated that the Bay is still showing increased resilience to such events. From the article:

“We don’t have as good of news to report because of some record rainfall,” said Bill Dennison, UMCES vice president for science application. …

But Dennison pointed to how the Bay ecosystem reacted in 2018 compared with another unusually wet year. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel caused the score to plummet 19 percentage points. Last year, the decline halted at 8 points. …

“The Bay is in fact showing resilience in the face of climate change and extreme weather events, underlining that the restoration efforts must remain vigilant to continue these hard-won efforts,” [UMCES President Peter Goodwin] said.

Source: UMCES

The article noted that the greatest decline in Bay health took place in the Elizabeth River in Virginia, which dropped from 46% to 21%. In Maryland, the Patapsco and Back rivers dropped to 19% (a “F” grade) for the first time since 2014.

The article stated that the findings in the UMCES report card was predicted by other scientiests and also confirmed in other recent Bay report cards, such as the one prepared by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The article also discussed the challenges posed by last year’s heavy rainfalls in measuring bay grasses, the decline of blue crab and anchovy populations in the Bay, and the potential downturn in the striped bass population. Striped bass are measured on a three year cycle so a final tally is not yet available.

Useful Links

UMCES Press Release on 2018 Chesapeake Bay & Watershed Report Card

UMCES 2018 Chesapeake Bay & Watershed Report Card