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Impacts of Past and Future Climate Variability on Chesapeake Bay Salinity, Temperature, Sediment and Biota

Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem History And Response to Past Climate Variability

The geosciences play a key role in environmental reconstruction by providing an understanding of the long-term history and development of ecosystems as well as the impacts of past (and future) climate change. Incorporation of such information into restoration planning is necessary to achieve sustainable results. For example, increased precipitation, associated with broad-scale climatic change, would increase sediment and nutrient influx to estuaries and require changes to management practices designed for present precipitation levels. This task focuses on ecosystem response (terrestrial and estuarine components) and decadal- to millennial-scale patterns of climatic changes (precipitation, temperature, salinity) to document the natural variability of the system. Such data are critical for prediction of ecosystem response to projected climatic changes.

The overall goal of this task is to develop a long-term (decadal- to millennial-scale) Holocene and late glacial paleoclimate record using estuarine sediments that contain proxies of precipitation (which influences salinity via stream discharge), water temperature, and atmospheric temperature.

Objectives of the task include:

  • Evaluate natural variability in precipitation, salinity, temperature, and sedimentation over decadal to millennial time scales.

  • Establish the baseline variability of climatic variability for comparison with post-industrial variability to search for anthropogenic influence.

  • Document impact of abrupt climate changes such as the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, the 8.2 ka cooling and the Younger Dryas on the estuarine ecosystem including temperature and salinity.

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