Taking an Ecosystem Perspective
Chesapeake Environmental Communications is working with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to identify the most important habitats for protection and restoration in the waters of Chesapeake Bay. This project is focused on four distinct habitat types: oysters, wetlands, shorelines, and benthic. The objective is to develop a common spatial framework and clear prioritization of protection and restoration projects throughout the Bay.
This will help identify areas of overlap, allowing multiple restoration and conservation efforts to be consolidated, providing larger ecological benefits for the same investment. In addition, it will identify areas of the Bay where permit reviews may be more or less complex due to the distribution of Essential Fish Habitat.
Ideally, this will foster targeted restoration and conservation projects of sufficient size that clear benefits to the regional ecosystem will begin to emerge. Additionally, the effectiveness of multiple state and federal investments in Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection would be enhanced with a spatial planning framework that better integrates efforts with each other and within larger ecosystem considerations.
Explicitly identifying priority regions of the Chesapeake Bay for their ecological values serves to broaden the perspective of what is needed to restore the Bay beyond just “pounds of pollution reduced.” Successful coastal and marine spatial planning relies on effective data management and analysis and a decision support system that provides transparency and engages a diverse set of people in a process to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay that best meet multiple societal objectives (e.g., shoreline development, fisheries production, aquaculture, and environmental conservation).
Key Questions the Habitat Prioritization Tool Will Address
- What data and models are available to create a common spatial framework to prioritize habitat restoration and protection across the Chesapeake Bay?
- Can new information be developed with existing data to inform this prioritization, especially for habitats which have not previously had focused attention?
- How do habitat values differ across Chesapeake Bay and how should that inform mitigation frameworks, and restoration/protection priorities?
- How can data and priorities be integrated and consolidated across habitats to foster targeted restoration and conservation projects of sufficient size that provide larger ecological benefits and benefit the regional ecosystem?