A Paleoecological Record of Changes on the Land and Estuarine Health

- Session Description (click to collapse)

The Chesapeake Bay, like many coastal regions of the world, has become highly eutrophic and in some areas anoxic over the last century. This ecological degradation has led to a collapse of the fish and shellfish economy. Many of the nation’s degraded waterways are now required to develop plans to restore these ecosystems by reducing pollutants to an allowable load that will result in restoration of the fishery and economy. Among the practices proposed to reduce nitrogen loads in particular is the use of anaerobic systems such as restored and constructed wetlands.

Using sediment cores collected throughout the estuary, we have reconstructed the history of land use and fluxes of materials that flowed into the estuary over a few hundred to several thousand years. Using this history of both the landscape and the estuary, I will show how the paleoecological record documents the deterioration of the health of much of the estuary as the watershed was transformed from forest to agriculture. This record might allow us to evaluate the feasibility of using wetlands to bring back the estuarine resource, and determine additional or alternative landscape conditions that could also aid in restoration goals.

- Moderator (click to collapse)

Grace Brush

Grace Brush is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering of The Johns Hopkins University. She teaches classes in Ecology, Plant Geography and Ecology, and the Chesapeake Estuarine System. Her research interests include biological and physical processes controlling species distributions, the response of terrestrial and estuarine ecosystems to climate and human disturbance using the fossil record of organisms and substances preserved in sediments, and the atmospheric–biologic interactions in pollen dispersal.

Dr. Brush was the recipient of the Mathias Medal, which is awarded by the Chesapeake Bay Consortium to scientists whose research on the Chesapeake has led to important policy decisions. She also received the Odum Lifetime Achievement Award from the Estuarine Research Federation for sustained research that has made important contributions to our understanding of estuaries and coastal systems. She is a member of the Estuarine Research Federation and the Ecological Society of America. She is a principal investigator of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, which is a part of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Studies Program.


Ph.D., Biology, Harvard University, 1956
M.S., Botany, University of Illinois, 1951
B.A., Economics, St. Francis Xavier University, 1949


Speaker's slides

The speakers slides are attached in pdf.