The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science released their annual health report and score for the Chesapeake Bay. The report focuses on 2013, and awards the Chesapeake a C, the same score as last year. Although the lower Bay has seen some progress, the estuary overall needs more help. The primary limiting factor for stream health again seems to be nutrient and sediment pollution from stormwater runoff.
This past weekend the New York Times had a piece about recycling food waste from restaurants, college dining areas, and other businesses associated with food production. The article focused on efforts to reduce food waste through composting, or donating leftovers to food banks. Cities, such as Austin, Texas, and colleges, such as Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, are participating in programs where food waste is being recycled into compost for fertilizer. Dickinson is unique in that it owns and operates a college farm, where waste from dining services can be composted and used to fertilize crops (which are then used in the school cafeteria).
Using food waste for compost, or donating leftovers to food banks, can reduce the millions of tons of waste sent to American landfills each year from restaurants, households, and the food production industry.
According to the Maryland 2013 Fall Oyster Survey, released by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the oyster population in the state is at the highest its been since 1985. Last year’s harvest was over 400,000 bushels, and the oyster survival rate has risen to 92% with the development of disease resistant larvae.
The Maryland Sea Grant, a research program out of the University of Maryland, publishes a magazine, Chesapeake Quarterly, on environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay region. In April they featured a story on water quality trading in the Chesapeake watershed. Water quality trading can take place between farmers and cities, where farmers plant cover crops and adopt other practices to reduce nitrogen runoff, and in return can receive financial grants from local wastewater treatment plants, for example. So far, water quality trading has not been very successful in the area, in terms of participation. The article, “Trading Away Toward a Cleaner Bay,” examines why this is the case, and looks at other market based approaches to limit nitrogen runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
Scientists with the Maryland Sea Grant are studying the relationship between oyster abundance and winter climate. Their findings could help predict oyster success, dependent on winter rains and average seasonal temperatures.
After posting yesterday about tree cover in the Chesapeake region, I came across this article from the Bay Journal on riparian forested buffer zones. According to author Karl Blankenship, streamside tree planting rates are falling. Forested buffers improve stream health, and help states in the Chesapeake watershed reach Bay cleanup goals. The six states, and the District of Columbia, which make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed, have pledged to plant 15,000 miles of forested buffers by 2025; yet last year only 202 miles were planted. Blankenship outlines the implications of this declining rate of planting, and looks at what needs to be done to turn the trend around.
The Chesapeake Bay Program recently released a report on the improvement of water quality in the Chesapeake. Using evidence from 40 different case studies on the watershed, the report examines how best management practices (BMPs) have reduced sediment loads and atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Specifically, an improvement in methods used in agriculture, at wastewater treatment plants, and better control of power plant and vehicle emissions have positively impacted the Bay.
The report also details current challenges associated with implementing BMPs (with a focus on population growth and intensive agriculture in the region), while looking at further opportunities for water quality improvement.
A report released by Restore America’s Estuaries, describes how wetlands can be used as carbon sinks to offset the impacts of climate change. The study focuses on a region on the West Coast, but there is a lot of potential for wetland restoration in the Chesapeake Bay area. The Chesapeake has many wetlands, several of which are in danger of disappearing. Could and should we restore wetlands in the Chesapeake region to act as carbon sinks? Which sites would be suitable for restoration?