Blankenship, Karl. "Climate Change already affecting Bay…." Bay Grasses in Classes
Climate change already affecting Bay, experts say
By Karl Blankenship
Since the 1960s, water temperatures in the Chesapeake have warmed by about 2degrees. In the mid-Atlantic, the period between the first and last accumulatingsnowfalls has decreased seven days in the last 50 years.In the last century, Bay water levels have risen by more than a foot. About a dozenislands have vanished; others have been evacuated. Thousands of acres of shorelinemarshes have eroded away.Those were some of the examples scientists and others presented to a recent Senatecommittee hearing to illustrate that climate change is not a distant concern for theBay region-it's a problem now."Global climate change is not something that is off in the Chesapeake Bay's future,"Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland's Center for EnvironmentalScience, told lawmakers at the hearing. "It is here today. The Bay is warming andevidence is growing that this is the case."At the Sept. 26 hearing, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Worksheard from scientists, fellow lawmakers, governors and others who-for the mostpart-voiced concerns that the changing climate will make Bay cleanup efforts moredifficult, threaten coastal communities and jeopardize species long associated withthe Chesapeake, including striped bass and blue crabs."The impacts of climate change must be factored into restoration goals and actions,"Boesch said. "No longer should this be put off as too hypothetical, too political or toodaunting."In addition to eroding islands and tidal marshes, climate change is alreadythreatening key parts of the Bay ecosystem. Warm temperatures in the summer of 2005 are blamed for the massive die-off of eelgrass in the Chesapeake, a seagrasswhich provides essential habitat for young blue crabs and other species."No underwater grasses, no crabs, no fish, no shellfish," Will Baker, president of theChesapeake Bay Foundation, summed up for the committee.Future projections call for continued sea level rise of 1.2-4.5 feet in the Bay thiscentury, further warming and increased winter and spring rainfall-a period critical toChesapeake water quality.