In two areas, recent data show improvements that indicate Bay health. Maryland’s DNR fall oyster survey recorded a “remarkable” year for both numbers and distribution of juvenile oysters. The survey’s spatfall intensity index, a measure of reproductive success and potential population growth for oysters, was 86.8 spat, or juvenile oysters, per bushel, nearly four times the 39-year median of 23.6 spat per bushel and the fifth highest in that timeframe. Officials attribute the results to both natural causes–the amount of rainfall affects salinity–and oyster management efforts. The Conservancy has participated in one of those efforts, the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. For more information on the results and their importance, see Chesapeake Bay 2023 Fall Oyster Survey Records Outstanding Spatfall.
And in other good news, the Chesapeake Bay Program has recently adjusted its wetlands tracking tool to find a small increase in wetlands across the watershed. Wetlands are critically important for Bay health and habitat. They store carbon, provide stop overs for migratory birds, and support very high levels of biodiversity among others protections. But the loss of wetlands around the Bay, cause by development and the introduction of invasive plants and animals, is a major risk to achieving water quality goals. For more information on the tracking tool, see New Chesapeake Bay Program Tracking Program Expands Data Collection.
February 2nd is World Wetlands Day, a reminder to be good stewards and support restoration efforts.