Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Chesapeake Bay Health: 02

I've been trying to decide the best way to get a handle on the health of the Bay. I know it's terrible and not improving any time soon. I know all the run-off from the snow this winter is going to make things worse. I get it that the Bay has been studied and recommendations have been made and conditions are worsening despite all of that.

The first steps seem to me to find out (1) when the health of the Bay came into question and why and (2) which indicators are used to determine the Bay's health. The answer to (1) is in the works. The answer to (2) varies by source - but only in some of the details. They seem to agree on the key points so let's take a look at the Chesapeake EcoCheck Indicators page - which doesn't always appreciate hyperlinks. (So I'll include this tiny url here to take you to the first page: http://tinyurl.com/ygqbc3o. Unfortunately, you'll have to cut and paste it into your browser if these links won't work.)

Their Bay Health Index assesses the state of six indicators by totaling two Indices - the Water Quality Index and the Biotic Index. Basically, what this means is that Water Clarity and the state of the aquatic grasses determines the health of the Bay.

When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Murky water, full of decomposing plant life, reduces the oxygen level in the water. Murky water also reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the plant matter necessary to the health of the bay.

Aquatic grasses help keep the water clear. They also serve as the habitat for many of the Bay species. In short, if there's not enough thriving aquatic grass, you have less oxygen and a loss of habitat.

These indicators are ones that are easy to understand. In the next few weeks, we'll take a look at how they're assessed and what the trends have been over the time they've been tracked.

Here's to a healthy Bay!

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