Science Serving Maryland's Coasts


Thresholds in the Recovery of Eutrophic Coastal Ecosystems
A Workshop Report

W. Michael Kemp and Erica B. Goldman, Editors

Saddle-stitched, 52 pp., 8.5" wide x 11" tall, UM-SG-TS-2008-01, ISBN 13: 978-0-943676-69-2, ISBN 10: 0-943676-69-X

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In mid-February of 2007, scientists from the Chesapeake Bay community and beyond came together to share information and identify knowledge gaps about the significance of threshold responses in pathways forward for the Chesapeake. The goal of this workshop,“Thresholds in the Recovery of Eutrophic Coastal Ecosystems,” was to advance the region’s ability to improve interpretation and forecasting of response trajectories of the Chesapeake Bay as nutrient loads decrease. The workshop brought a mix of researchers, modelers, and managers, drawing upon the expertise of scientists who have studied aquatic ecosystems where ecological state changes have occurred, and on those with experience in implementing novel management solutions. The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee and the Maryland Sea Grant Program sponsored the workshop.

At first they were solitary voices, working and living along the rivers around America’s richest estuary. The Chesapeake, they warned, was changing. We were losing seagrasses along our shores, waterfowl in our autumn skies, oysters in our winter waters, and the great spawning runs of spring. Even the blue crab catches of summer were faltering.

This 52-page report synthesizes the workshop’s findings and includes recommendations for approaches to research and management in the Chesapeake Bay.

These recommendations include:

  • Develop an early warning system for approaching ecological thresholds. Work toward thresholds that might improve environmental conditions and avoid those that reinforce the Bay’s current degraded state.

  • Gauge how the Bay will respond to decreasing nutrient loads by taking a closer look at where and when the Bay has crossed thresholds in the past.

  • Current modeling approaches may not be adequate to capture the dynamic responses that can occur as a threshold is crossed. These current models should be tested specifically with threshold behaviors in mind.

  • To explore the idea that crossing a threshold for recovery might help boost the Bay into a better state, restoration efforts should become experiments in adaptive management. Small-scale, intensive activities could show what it would take to “flip” a tributary, for example, into a healthier state.

  • Based on evidence from case studies in the Chesapeake and other aquatic ecosystems worldwide, managers should target nutrient reduction and habitat restoration activities to shallow, low salinity regions of the Bay, which are likely to respond more quickly to reduction in nutrient loads.

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Use this form to order one free hardcopy booklet. For orders of multiple booklets please contact Jeannette Connors at

Thresholds in the Recover of Eutrophic Coastal Ecosystems: A Workshop Report.
Kemp, W. Michael and Erica B. Goldman, Editors. UM-SG-TS-2008-01. Free.

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