Progress toward this outcome is measured against a 2010 baseline, as it was at this point that jurisdictions adopted the Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) that outlined the pollution-reducing practices that would help them meet the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). Wetland restoration targets were included in these pollution-reducing practices.
As of 2010, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Change Analysis Program, there were approximately 282,291 acres of tidal wetlands in the watershed’s estuarine drainage area. This marks a loss of 1,566 acres since 1992.
Between 2010 and 2017, 9,103 acres of wetlands were established, rehabilitated or reestablished on agricultural lands. While this outcome includes a target to restore 85,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands in the watershed, 83,000 of these restored acres should take place on agricultural lands. The wetlands restored on agricultural lands between 2010 and 2017 mark an 11 percent achievement of the 83,000-acre goal.
Wetlands Restored on Agricultural Lands (Cumulative) (2010-2017)
Wetland restoration (which results in gains in wetland acreage) is tracked separately from wetland enhancement (which results in gains in existing wetland function). Wetland restoration on agricultural lands is determined through data submitted by jurisdictions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the National Environmental Information Exchange Network (NEIEN). Any negative values that are reported in a particular year can indicate that a state has corrected previously submitted data. In 2016, for example, a state data review resulted in corrections to data that was previously submitted by Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This could explain the decrease in cumulative acres restored between 2016 and 2017.
Healthy wetlands provide critical habitat for fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates, and support recreational fishing and hunting. Wetlands trap polluted runoff and slow the flow of nutrients, sediment and toxic contaminants into rivers, streams and the Bay. By soaking up stormwater and dampening storm surges, wetlands also slow the erosion of shorelines and protect properties from floods.
Tracking our progress toward restoring wetlands on agricultural lands is critical to understanding our progress toward enhancing climate resiliency. Because wetlands reduce the impact of heavy precipitation, mitigate upstream floods and diminish the extent of property damage caused by storm events, wetlands help us prepare for some of the disruptions climate change can cause.