Slight Improvement in Bay Health, UMCES Gives C Grade

University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science gives the Chesapeake Bay a C grade, a slight improvement from former C-minus.

After two straight years of declines due to record rainfall in 2018, the Chesapeake Bay’s health improved slightly in 2020, according to a report from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science. Christine Condon, of The Sun, reports that the center’s grade for the estuary ticked up from a C- back to a C. The entire watershed received an aggregated B- for the second straight year.

“We’re making some progress — moderate on the bay, and a little better in terms of the watershed — but we have our work cut out for us,” said Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles said during a news conference Tuesday about the report.

According to UMCES:

Individual indicators of Bay health had mixed results in 2020, but the overall Bay-wide trend continues to improve over time. In addition, 7 out of 15 regions showed significantly improving health trends.

Dissolved oxygen and total nitrogen scores improved, while chlorophyll a and total phosphorus scores declined. Water clarity, benthic community, and aquatic grass scores decreased slightly. Due to the pandemic, there was a monitoring gap from March to May. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ecosystem health of Chesapeake Bay are not yet known, besides a reduction in atmospheric nitrogen, which has a declining trend, continued by reduced travel during 2020.

The watershed, which includes off-shooting rivers and basins, was rated a B-minus. According to the UMCES annual report, the bay showed moderate health and the watershed showed good health last year, Stephanie Lai reports in the Post.

For the first time, reports Brian Witte for the AP, the report card examined new indicators of watershed health, including stewardship, protected lands, walkability and heat vulnerability. Scientists have been putting a focus 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,” said Dr. Peter Goodwin, the president of UMCES. “Improvements in our environment go hand-in-hand with improvements in our communities.”

Learn more and read the full UMCES report.