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Chesapeake Bay: the United States' largest estuarine system
Mountford, K. (2000). Chesapeake Bay: the United States' largest estuarine system, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. pp. 335-349
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 1. Regional chapters: Europe, The Americas and West Africa. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 934 pp., more

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Document type: Review

Keyword
    Marine

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  • Mountford, K.

Abstract
    The Chesapeake Bay is a large, partially mixed, estuarine system on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. It was formed over the last 10,000 years as sea level rose following the last North American ('Wisconsin') glaciation. The surrounding watershed drains 165,759 km² via nine major river systems. Native Americans occupied the landscape starting at least 12,000 BP, before sea level rise began inundating the ancestral river courses; most of their prehistory therefore, until the Late Woodland period (1250 BP) has been swallowed beneath a growing Chesapeake. The earliest recorded European explorations date from the mid-16th century. Permanent European settlement began in 1607, followed by major environmental disruptions from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Deforestation, widespread agriculture, heavy harvesting of the Bay's natural resources and industrial development have played successive roles in stressing the ecosystem. The presence of two ports of world prominence and the nation's capital, Washington DC, engendered tremendous population growth following the two World Wars. The exponential increase in use of agricultural fertilizers and sewage discharges accelerated declines in water quality , especially underwater seagrass meadows and harvestable fish and shellfish resources. These losses stimulated a political process which, over the years 1983-1999, made significant investments in nutrient reductions and habitat improvement, achieving measurable progress in restoring the bay.

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