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NCCOS Research Project

An Ecological Assessment to Support NOAA’s Choptank Complex Habitat Focus Area – Phase I

This project began in June 2014 and was completed in December 2015

We synthesized biological, chemical, and physical data from six watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay to assess impacts of land use on aquatic ecosystem health. The findings from this study are being used to inform the sampling design for an ecological assessment of NOAA’s Choptank Complex Habitat Focus (HFA) Area. We will also collect additional data that will be used to develop a GIS-database for Choptank HFA managers.

Why We Care
Our coastal ecosystem assessment report of three Chesapeake Bay watersheds (Corsica, Magothy, and Rhode) defined linkages between land use and resulting aquatic ecosystem health. Our project will expand on this report with ecological baseline data that will aid in assessing the effectiveness of management actions to improve water quality and to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay’s estuarine and coastal habitats.

What We Are Doing
The first component of this project is to synthesize biological, chemical, and physical data to define the ecological condition of several surrounding watersheds of the Choptank River Complex located on the eastern shore of Maryland. The study will include additional analyses of previously collected samples in the Sassafras, Middle, Nanjemoy, Corsica, Magothy, and Rhode Rivers. Results from this study will provide context and comparative metrics that can be applied to an evaluation of conditions in the Choptank watershed.

The second component of this study will be to collect existing data from federal, state, academic, NGO, and private sector partners to describe the Choptank (link to new Phase II website), including the distribution and abundance of key fish and invertebrate species, development of benthic habitat maps and associated benthic communities, and the chemical-physical conditions and hydrodynamics of the Choptank watershed. These data sets will be used to construct a GIS-database for development of a digital atlas to support the Choptank HFA.

The primary outcome of our work will be a better understanding of land-use effects at the watershed scale and the potential benefits from specific management actions.

Partners for this project include: the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. EPA–Chesapeake Bay Program office, the NOAA Habitat Conservation Team, and the Northeast Regional Focus Area Assessment Team.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, in direct support of NOS priorities, offices, and customers, and to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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