Every day, the Chesapeake Bay watershed loses a bit more forest and, just as predictably, the amount of run-off reaching the local streams increases, bird and wildlife habitat decreases, and the potential to absorb atmospheric carbon is reduced. This article highlights the opportunities for tree planting and forest restoration in the Chesapeake Bay.
Forests covered about 95 percent of the Bay watershed when English settlers arrived in the early 1600s, but just 55 percent is forested today and that percentage continues to decline. That has ramifications for the Bay’s health. Forests are highly effective at soaking up nutrients, so when they are lost to development or agriculture, more nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment will make its way to local streams and, ultimately, the Bay.
“Forests produce the cleanest water of any land use, so the effects of forest loss ripple downstream and into the Bay, where the greater nutrient loads and higher temperatures generate conditions that threaten the Bay’s abundant life,” states a new Chesapeake Forest Restoration Strategy developed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The strategy doesn’t set specific reforestation goals. Instead, it identifies activities with the greatest opportunity to incorporate tree planting and forest restoration to help achieve other Bay goals established by either the state-federal Bay Program partnership or the federal Chesapeake restoration strategy developed in response to President Obama’s Chesapeake Bay Executive Order.
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