“A lot of people don’t realize close to a third of the bay’s pollution comes from dirty air…Where that dirty air falls on a forest, a lot of it, maybe 90 percent, gets absorbed by the trees. It falls on a parking lot maybe zero percent gets absorbed. They filter out pollution, they provide habitat, they shade the water in smaller streams, which makes the habitat a lot better for fish.” — Salisbury University Professor Tom Horton, WBOC
In recent years we have been losing trees in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The importance of trees and forests for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can be understood from various ecological, environmental, and economic perspectives. Trees and forests act as natural filters for water runoff. They help trap sediments, pollutants, and excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that would otherwise flow into the Chesapeake Bay. This filtering effect improves water quality, reduces pollution, and helps maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem.
Forests provide critical habitat for a wide range of wildlife species, including birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects. The diversity of plant species in forests supports various food webs, making forests essential for the survival of many species native to the Chesapeake Bay region.
The root systems of trees and forests stabilize soil and prevent erosion. This is particularly important in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where urbanization and agriculture can lead to increased soil erosion. By preventing sediment from entering water bodies, forests help maintain the integrity of waterways.
Forests sequester carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, helping to mitigate climate change. They act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon, which helps reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Forests can help regulate water flow during periods of heavy rainfall, reducing the risk of flooding in downstream areas. This is especially important in the watershed, where urban and suburban development can exacerbate flooding issues.
Efforts to conserve and restore forests within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are a key component of broader initiatives to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Various government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community groups need to work together to promote reforestation, sustainable land management practices, and the protection of critical forested areas to achieve these environmental and ecological benefits.