Forests, Waterways, and the Chesapeake Bay
[A prime example of a forested buffer.] Forests are efficient filters cleaning sediments and other pollutants from water. Forest buffers, or strips of forests on either side of streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and bays, are essential in maintaining clean water. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service is working to increase and enhance forest buffers to aid in cleaning and protecting the Chesapeake Bay, as well as all Maryland waters.

The Chesapeake Bay is our nation's largest estuary, and one of the largest and most productive estuaries in the world. Estuaries are where river currents meet and mix with ocean tides, and fresh water mixes with salt water. It is rich with life and supports a wide variety of people, other animals, and plants.

More than 96% of Maryland is in the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay meaning that nearly all of the water draining from Maryland flows into the Bay. The western part of Garrett County drains into the Ohio River and the eastern part of Worcester County flows directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Forests play an important role in cleaning water that flows across the State and into the Bay.

Tree roots protect waterways by stabilizing stream banks and shorelines reducing erosion. Shade from trees lowers water temperatures in the summer and increases amounts of oxygen dissolved in the water. Dissolved oxygen is needed by fish and plants.

Forests increase large woody debris and organic matter in waterways, thereby improving living conditions for cold-water fish and spawning conditions for warm-water fish. Riparian forests, or forests adjacent to or near flowing water, support a wide variety of plants and animals often not found elsewhere. Therefore, it is important to maintain forested buffers around streams, rivers, and reservoirs.

Planting and maintaining forest buffers is a cost effective means of reducing amounts of sediments and other pollutants entering waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay. In Maryland, there are 17,000 miles of streams. Thirty eight percent of the streams are adequately protected by forest buffers, and 65% have a sufficient buffer on at least one side.

Forest Health Report Contents

This information provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service

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