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Coastal Bays: 4 new projects will bring additional bay study funds - March 22, 2012

Since 2001, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program has contributed more than $900,000 toward research and project implementation in the coastal bays watershed through its Implementation Grant program. This year, MCBP is allocating $80,000 to support four new projects aligned with its Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan and implementation goals. Those funds will be matched by project partners, bringing an additional $62,000 to the watershed.

What is a watershed? It's the body of land that drains into a specific body of water. The coastal bays watershed includes the land in Worcester County that drains into Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Newport, Sinepuxent and Chincoteague bays. Some of Virginia's Eastern Shore drains into the Chincoteague Bay, too.

The stakeholder-driven CCMP identifies hundreds of actions needed to protect these local waterways. Tackling the workload is possible only through the support of and cooperation with multiple agencies. The shared goal of protecting the coastal bays watershed brings many partners to the table.

Current program research goals include identifying factors leading to the degradation of the Chincoteague Bay and related management needs. Working with partners to identify and target specific locations for protection and restoration within the coastal bays watershed is also important. Identifying nutrient contributions from specific sources and establishing a better understanding of nutrient transformations and pathways is key. It is also important to develop clear indicators and milestones to assess the impacts of stressors and track the effectiveness of management activities in different areas of the watershed.

Terrestrial monitoring has been a priority since the program's inception. Expanding terrestrial monitoring activities for specific species and habitats can help to track ecosystem changes and response to stressors over time. MCBP assists in monitoring amphibian and reptile populations and colonial waterbird populations that nest on islands in the coastal bays. Horseshoe crabs are also monitored during peak spawning season. All of these species are important indicators of the health of our bays.

Climate change was not an identified issue when the CCMP was initially adopted; however, potential impacts must now be considered. First, MCBP must work with partners to identify extant and future resource changes resulting from climate change. Climate change could have significant impacts on our coastal community, affecting infrastructure, agriculture, wildlife, tourism and our economy. Scientific data and modeling will help businesses, residents, government agencies and land managers plan more effectively.

In 2012, MCBP plans to produce its third State of the Bays report. As it has during the past two years, this report will help the public understand issues impacting our coastal bays, gauge progress in improving local waterways, acknowledge outstanding contributions from citizens and local, state and federal partners, and find out more about how to get involved and be a force for positive change.

New projects that recently received funding support from MCBP include scientific research to be conducted through the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. UMES-led research will include three projects: identifying microbial and nitrogen "hot spots" in Chincoteague Bay, benthis nutrient cycling at the coastal bays land-sea interface; and engineering with nature: softer and greener seawalls for the coastal bays. DNR staff members will work to assess diarrhetic shellfish poisoning toxins in Maryland's coastal bays.

Through MCBP's Implementation Grant Program, more than $143,000 will be spent this year helping to protect our coastal bays. If you're interested in learning more about the Maryland Coastal Bays Program's efforts or would like to get involved, please contact us at mcbp@mdcoastalbays.org.

Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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