Chesapeake Bay Health Edges Up to C Grade in Report Card

By Brian Witte.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The health of the Chesapeake Bay improved to a grade of C in 2020 — up from a C-minus in 2019, according to an annual report card by scientists released Tuesday.

Individual indicators on the health of the nation’s largest estuary had mixed results in 2020, but the report released by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found the overall bay-wide trend continues to improve over time.

For the first time, 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.”

Seven out of 15 regions showed significantly improving health trends, the report said.

Dissolved oxygen and total nitrogen scores improved, while chlorophyll a and total phosphorus scores declined. Water clarity, benthic community — organisms in the bottom of the bay — and aquatic grass scores decreased slightly.