By 2025, restore, enhance and preserve wetland habitats that support a wintering population of 100,000 black ducks, a species representative of the health of tidal marshes across the watershed. Refine population targets through 2025 based on best available science.
Recent Progress: Increase
The Black Duck Decision Support Tool (DST), developed by the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture in 2017, estimated an additional 151,272 acres of primarily high-quality tidal marsh were necessary to support a wintering population of 100,000 black ducks. This was in addition to the established 2014 baseline of 566,477 acres. A recent update of the DST has been successful in indicating areas of sufficient or insufficient wetland quantity and quality to support the intended number of black ducks in each Hydraulic Unit Code (HUC) 12 watershed. This tool also shows the conservation status of these areas, identifying where additional protection, restoration, or enhancement is needed.
Despite this valuable information that will help guide restoration efforts, we do not currently have a method for tracking how many restoration acres result in quality habitat for black ducks. Current wetland restoration tracking to determine progress toward the Wetlands Outcome has not prioritized the identification of black duck habitat, so tracking restoration acres toward this outcome is our biggest obstacle. The Black Duck Action Team and the Wetland Workgroup are evaluating how the DST may be useful in aligning the Black Duck and Wetlands Outcomes and prioritizing the respective restoration efforts.
Achieving the Black Duck Outcome is uncertain due to the lack of available data. The DST was instrumental in establishing a target and baseline, but the data needed to track restored habitat are lacking. Through collaboration with other workgroups and additional staffing support, we hope to develop a tracking system for the Wetland and Black Duck Outcomes that accounts for both tidal and non-tidal wetlands. We are also evaluating how to incorporate existing submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) acreage data, since SAV are an important food source for black ducks.
Once the most abundant dabbling duck in eastern North America, the American black duck has experienced a population decline as our land use has changed and its food and habitat have disappeared. Black duck abundance serves as an indicator of wetland health and food availability.
The mid-Atlantic region (which includes the Chesapeake Bay) supports the largest population of wintering black ducks in eastern North America. The 100,000 bird target for this outcome is based on a goal set forth in the USFWS North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which calls for a continental black duck breeding population of 640,000 birds. Preserving habitat in the Bay watershed is critical to the long-term sustainability of the species.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Restoring historic black duck breeding or wintering habitat;
- Enhancing and managing black duck habitat, which may include restoring riparian buffers, underwater grass beds or converted wetlands; managing open marshes and wetland water levels; and managing beavers, controlling exotic and invasive species, and performing prescribed burns;
- Protecting black duck habitat, which may include putting conservation easements in place;
- Managing predation;
- Managing interspecies competition and hybridization; and
- Reviewing and streamlining regulatory legislation and enforcement and permitting processes.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through data related to wetland conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey.
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program's partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in November of 2022. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in November 2024.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
The Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team.
Participating partners include:
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Fish and Wildlife (State of Delaware)
- University of Delaware (State of Delaware)
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
- University of Massachusetts Northeast Climate Science Center, Landscape Ecology Lab and Department of Environmental Conservation (State of Massachusetts)
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Department of Energy and Environment (District of Columbia)
- Chesapeake Bay Commission
- Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
- Black Duck Joint Venture (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
- National Wildlife Refuge System (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake Bay Program Local Government Advisory Committee)
- Ducks Unlimited