Chesapeake Summit Advances Wetland Resilience

Feb 28, 2019 | Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, Reserves

Maryland salt marsh. Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Reserve, Maryland.
The marshes of Chesapeake Bay are among the most beautiful and productive in the world. Unfortunately, they also are among the most threatened. Last month, more than 230 stakeholders, gathered for the Marsh Resilience Summit—a first of its kind, inspiring regional dialogue on how to advance marsh and community resilience in the face of sea level rise and other stressors.

The summit was organized by the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative, Maryland Sea Grant, and our Chesapeake Bay Reserves in Virginia and Maryland with input from a regional steering committee. It attracted participants from more than 100 management, research, governmental, and nonprofit organizations. Lectures and discussions explored topics including carbon credits for wetlands and the collateral benefits of marsh conservation—a session that stressed the equation: healthy marshes = healthy communities.

U.S. Representative Rob Wittman (VA) and Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles addressed the threats facing Chesapeake Bay in their opening remarks. Both encouraged increasing the accessibility of science to decision makers who could translate data into policy and action. Representative Wittman also urged summit participants to engage more citizens in their efforts.

“We need to involve citizens to the point where they associate a value with our wetlands,” observed Wittman. His remarks were underscored by sessions exploring the responses of agricultural, faith-based, and industrial communities to climate change, which made it clear that the benefits of marshes—and the impacts of their loss—are far reaching.

From left: Willy Reay, director of the Chesapeake Bay Reserve, Virginia; U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman; Ellen Herbert, ecosystem scientist at Ducks Unlimited, and Sally Lawrence Wood, assistant to the director, Chesapeake Bay Reserve, Virginia. 

“The summit underscored that there are many ways to value wetlands—monetarily, spiritually, and physically,” says Willy Reay, director of Chesapeake Bay’s Virginia Reserve. “Now, our charge is to now share those values with everyone in the region.”

The summit highlighted the efforts of organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative, which already works to elevate the state of the science and foster a sense of communal stewardship of wetlands among the region’s residents. Coordinated by Taryn Sudol, the Cooperative is a bay-wide collection of ecosystem-based study sites (including those at the Virginia and Maryland Reserves) that apply regional science to coastal management and resilience efforts.

The summit was sponsored, in part, by a NERRS Science Collaborative Capacity Building grant. Summit steering committee members included representatives from both Chesapeake Bay Reserves and NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. For more about the summit, visit the Sentinel Site Cooperative’s web site.

—With thanks to Cirse Gonzalez, Coastal Training Program Coordinator from our Virginia Reserve, for contributing to this article.

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