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Chesapeake Bay

Main Contributors:

Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs

Other Contributors:


The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, and lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The bay is mostly known for its seafood production, especially blue crabs, clams and oysters. In the middle of the twentieth century, the bay supported 9,000 full-time watermen, according to one account. Today, the body of water is less productive than it used to be because of runoff from urban areas (mostly on the Western Shore) and farms (especially on the Eastern Shore and in the Susquehanna River watershed), over-harvesting, and invasion of foreign species. In contrast to harvesting wild oysters, oyster farming is a growing industry for the bay to help maintain the estuary's productivity as well as a natural effort for filtering impurities from the water in an effort to reduce the effects of man-made pollution. 

Type of regime shift

Ecosystem type

  • Marine & coastal

Land uses

  • Urban
  • Large-scale commercial crop cultivation
  • Tourism

Spatial scale of the case study

  • Local/landscape (e.g. lake, catchment, community)

Continent or Ocean

  • North America


  • East Coast


  • United States

Locate with Google Map

Key References

  1. Boesch, D.F. 2004. Scientific requirements for ecosystem-based management in the restoration of Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Louisiana. Ecological Engineering. 26 (1) pp 6-26


Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs. Chesapeake Bay. In: Regime Shifts Database, Last revised 2012-11-27 15:27:41 GMT.
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