NCCOS scientists have analyzed how land use has affected the aquatic ecosystem of the Tred Avon River, an important tributary of Maryland's Choptank River in the Chesapeake Bay.
Their assessment of the system from 2015 to 2017 shows that, overall, the Tred Avon River is in relatively good condition compared to other areas of the Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay. However, there are signs of degradation—such as excess nutrients, and seasonal low oxygen in bottom waters—especially in areas with rapid, human population growth and urban development. The team's model simulations revealed that oyster aquaculture and oyster reef restoration are nutrient removal mechanisms that may alleviate some of the negative impacts detected, supporting sustainable use of natural resources.
In 2014, NOAA designated the Choptank River complex a Habitat Focus Area to serve as a catalyst for the integration of habitat restoration activities, science and monitoring, and community engagement in this key watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. The Tred Avon River is an area with multiple, competing land uses, where urban development is replacing farm fields and forests, making it a good place to study how various land uses affect an adjacent aquatic environment.
NCCOS's ecological assessment of the Tred Avon River will inform natural resource management efforts to support the needs of a growing human population, while protecting ecosystem services provided by the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. The bay produces over 570 million pounds of seafood annually, including economically and ecologically important species such as oysters, blue crab, scallops, striped bass, and menhaden.