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Ecosystem Trends and Response: Chesapeake Bay

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Excerpt from Introduction

The Chesapeake Bay, the Nation's largest estuary, has experienced serious environmental degradation during the past century. Symptoms of degradation are large declines in sea grass acreage and in finfish and shellfish (oysters and crab) populations, seasonal depletions in dissolved oxygen, and increases in sedimentation. These environmental changes raised serious concern in the 1970's because they threatened major commercial and recreational activities by damaging key habitats and reducing water quality necessary for bay species to survive and reproduce. Most scientists attribute these changes, at least indirectly, to ecological stress due to human activities, especially land use changes in the bay watershed related to deforestation, agriculture, use of fertilizers, and more recently, urbanization, pollution, and sewage. Future stress on bay ecosystems will potentially worsen, as the Chesapeake Bay Commission predicts that the population in the bay watershed will swell to 17.4 million by the year 2020.


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