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USGS Chesapeake Bay Activities

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Chesapeake Bay Accomplishments for 2011

In its expanded role under the President's Chesapeake Bay Executive Order, the U.S. Geological Survey has been given the lead responsibility, in collaboration with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to strengthen science that supports all of the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) goals. The USGS and its partners will use ecosystem-based adaptive management, which will provide science to improve the efficiency and accountability of CBP activities. The USGS Chesapeake Bay studies depend on collaboration with and funding of twelve USGS Programs to support USGS scientists conducting projects in thirteen Science Centers. Selected USGS Chesapeake Bay accomplishments are listed for each of our four science goals in 2011:

Goal 1: Summarize science and enhance decision tools to support adaptive management

  • USGS led a multi-agency effort to improve science support by applying an adaptive-management framework to improve tools to prioritize management actions, establish a monitoring alliance to assess progress toward key outcomes, and focus research to evaluate the effect of management practices.
  • USGS worked with the National Park Service (NPS) and States in the watershed to develop an initial version of the Chesapeake Land Conservation Priorities System. The system will be used to support sound conservation planning and decision making in the Bay watershed, and the Department of the Interior considers it a model for a national system. USGS and NPS are in discussion with NatureServe to explore potential connections with their Landscope system that could be used to expand the capabilities of the Chesapeake prototype.
  • USGS developed the first beta release of the COAST Forest Mapper to prioritize forested areas for preservation and restoration based on user-selected and weighted criteria.
  • Federal agencies (NOAA, USGS, and EPA) are focusing the initial effort for a Chesapeake Data Enterprise on enhancing management and sharing of watershed and estuary water-quality data.
  • USGS is working to improve management of its Chesapeake information through a partnership with the USGS Community for Data Integration (CDI).

Goal 2: Assess and explain water-quality conditions and change

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USGS worked with States to expand water-quality monitoring in the watershed to help assess progress toward the nutrient and sediment Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Bay. USGS also conducted monitoring to assess baseline conditions in selected small watersheds for studies of the effect of management practices on water-quality improvements.
  • USGS developed new urban and suburban land information and worked with EPA to incorporate the information into the CBP watershed model to help States develop their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). New sediment results from USGS models were provided to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for priority watersheds and to the States to help with development of the WIPs.
  • USGS released a new sediment model and enhanced nutrient models of the Bay watershed. The results from the USGS SPARROW models are being used by USDA to focus conservation practices in the Bay watershed, and by EPA and the States to better target efforts to meet the Bay TMDL.
  • USGS hosted a workshop with the CBP water-quality goal implementation team and Scientific, Technical Assessment, and Report (STAR) team to discuss improved approaches for using monitoring data to assess progress toward the Bay TMDL. Outcomes from the workshop include developing techniques to better compare TMDL allocations to changes in nutrient and sediment loads.

Goal 3: Document the status and change of the health of fish, wildlife, and habitat

  • USGS is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to assess factors causing die-offs and affecting the health of freshwater species in the Bay watershed. The USGS completed journal articles that summarized (1) potential stressors contributing to immunosuppression and mortality of fishes in the Potomac basin, (2) biological effects of exposure to emerging contaminants and to land uses associated with intersex, and (3) new gill parasites identified in smallmouth and largemouth bass that may contribute to mortalities. These studies will be used to summarize the extent and seriousness of the impact of toxic contaminants on fish and wildlife in the Bay and its watershed.
  • USGS conducted several sampling efforts including (1) a food-web study of pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in both fish and ospreys in the Potomac basin, (2) initial sampling of water concentrations of emerging contaminants at key sites in the Potomac and Susquehanna watersheds, and (3) sampling of smallmouth bass to determine the condition of their health.
  • USGS is supporting improvements to a model of Bay habitats and black ducks. The model results will be used by FWS, NRCS, USGS, State natural resource departments, the Black Duck Joint Venture, and Ducks Unlimited to develop strategies to restore habitats to increase the number of wintering black ducks in the Bay.

Goal 4: Forecast, monitor, and assess impacts of land and climate change

  • USGS enhanced the functionality of the Chesapeake Bay Land Change Model, development of the Phase 5.3.2 land-use dataset 1984—2006, and simulation of development trends through 2025 to support the Bay TMDL.
  • USGS finalized the USGS-NRCS data-sharing agreement and prototyped methods to aggregate the data for public release.
  • USGS is conducting a vulnerability assessment of the impact of combined land-use and climate change on streamflow in the Bay watershed (expected to be completed in 2012).
  • USGS and NOAA conducted monitoring of the storm surge during Hurricane Irene to better assess the effect of sea-level rise on coastal areas. USGS also conducted water-quality sampling during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and is working with NOAA, EPA, and the States to assess the impact of these events on the Bay ecosystem.

Additional information about USGS Chesapeake Bay Studies is available at:

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