The Maryland Coastal Bays Sediment Mapping Project
Maryland's coastal bays: Chincoteague, Sinepuxent, Isle of Wight, and Assawoman Bays, are valuable both economically and environmentally. These bays serve as nursery and spawning areas for many commercially important species of fish. The bays, which lie along the Atlantic flyway, one of four major migratory paths in North America, provide important habitat for migratory as well as native birds. Portions of Sinepuxent and Chincoteague Bays are within the boundaries of Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague Island State Park. Economically, the coastal bays are important to the Maryland's tourist trade. These bays offer multitude of recreational activities, including boating, water sports, recreational fishing, and camping.
Due to their size and restricted access to the open ocean, the bays are fragile ecosystems, susceptible to the detrimental effects of human activities. Recent years have seen an increase in development within the bays' watershed. The increased growth and popularity of the bays have led to serious conflicts in the management of bays natural resources. Tough questions are being raised as to how to preserve and protect the natural resources such as critical habitat while adequately accommodating the increasing demands for recreational and commercial access. Recently, Federal, State, and local groups have joined efforts to address these concerns and to develop strategies for the effective management of the coastal bays. In 1996, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program was formed as a result of the coastal bays being accepted into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Estuary Program. At the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initiated the Ocean City and Vicinity Water Resources Study to address navigation, habitat restoration, and sand management issues.
Fundamental to the management of the bays resources is a basic knowledge of the geological character of the bays' system. An important component of the bays' aquatic ecosystem is the bottom sediments. The sediments have a controlling influence on both the biological and chemical components of the ecosystem. Very few studies have investigated the physical and geochemical characteristics of sediments in Maryland's coastal bays.
In order to obtain the necessary sediment data for the coastal bays, the Maryland Geological Survey initiated a detailed survey of the bottom sediments of the Maryland coastal bays. The objectives of this study were to:
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