Climate change is already affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Over the past several decades, sea levels and temperatures have risen at rates higher than historical averages. These and future changes threaten coastal communities, living resources, and our ability to restore an already stressed system. The Chesapeake Bay is particularly vulnerable to climate changes because many of its native plants and animals are already at the edge of their range. For example, eelgrass, an underwater grass that currently dominates much of the lower Bay, is at the southernmost edge of its range. As Bay temperatures increase, we are likely to see marked decreases of eelgrass—a critical habitat for fish, crabs, and many other Bay species.

NOAA, working with many regional partners, monitors and predicts climate changes throughout the Chesapeake watershed; works with communities to help them plan for reducing the impacts of climate change; and is assessing research needs to better understand climate effects on the Bay ecosystem. NOAA has developed a fact sheet on Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay to provide more information.

A Call for Greater Federal Action

In May 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order that recognizes the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure and called on the federal government to lead a renewed effort to restore and protect the nation's largest estuary and its watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order requested that the Departments of Commerce and Interior lead the effort to address the impacts of climate change and develop a strategy to respond to these impacts. An interagency team comprised of experts across eight federal agencies developed the report "Chesapeake Bay Watershed Climate Change Impacts." A final strategy for recommendations to address climate change and other sections of the Executive Order was published in May 2010. All documents pertaining to these efforts are available through the Executive Order website.

States Taking Action