In the past half century, many waterbird populations in Chesapeake Bay have declined or shifted ranges, indicating major ecological changes have occurred. While many studies have focused on the problems associated with environmental degradation such as the losses of coastal wetlands and submerged vegetation, a number of restoration efforts have been launched in the past few decades to reverse the “sea of despair.” Most pertinent to waterbirds, restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, tidal wetland restoration, oyster reef restoration, and island creation/restoration have benefited a number of species. State and federal agencies and non-government agencies have formed partnerships to spawn many projects ranging in size from less than 0.5 ha to ca. 1,000 ha. While most SAV, wetland, and oyster reef projects have struggled to different degrees over the past ten to twenty years with inconsistent methods, irregular monitoring, and unknown reasons for failures, recent improvements in techniques and application of adaptive management have been made. The large dredge-material island projects at Hart-Miller Island near Baltimore, Poplar Island west of Tilghman Island, Maryland, and Craney Island in Portsmouth, Virginia have provided large outdoor “laboratories” for wildlife, fishery, and wetland habitat creation. All three have proven to be important for nesting waterbirds and migrant shorebirds and waterfowl; however nesting populations at all three islands have been compromised to different degrees by predators. Restoration success for waterbirds and other natural resources depends on: (1) establishing realistic, quantifiable objectives and performance criteria, (2) continued monitoring and management (e.g., predator control), (3) targeted research to determine causality, and (4) careful evaluation under an adaptive management regime.
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Vol. 30 • No. sp1