Interrelated environmental concerns about Chesapeake Bay are being addressed in an interdisciplinary project using paleoecological and geochemical records from sediment cores to investigate Holocene climate and human encroachment. The research is looking at interannual through millennial-scale variability of bay salinity, sediment accumulation, and dissolved oxygen, temperature, and faunal and floral trends. Current and planned research is expected to result in better restoration strategies by improving our understanding of the linkages between the bay's ecosystem, climate, and land use.
Chesapeake Bay, the United States' largest and most productive estuary, faces several complex environmental issues, including eutrophication and anoxia in the main channel and tributaries, high turbidity and rates of sedimentation, outbreaks of the toxic dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida, and coastal erosion and submergence tied to sea-level rise. Such problems often are attributed to human activities in the bay's watershed, including pollution, urbanization, and deforestation, but it now is recognized that climatic factors also strongly influence bay salinity, temperature, and water quality.