Global emissions of greenhouse gases are bringing about higher temperatures, longer growing seasons, and rising sea levels. These changes influence everything from the chemistry of bay water to the location and distribution of ecosystems like saltmarshes and bay grass meadows. The timing and degree to which migratory fish and birds use the estuary may change; species of plants and animals may shift in favor of those that prefer or tolerate warmer weather.

Increasing heat is a significant concern. The growing season will continue to lengthen, and heat waves are expected to become more extreme. As a result, the Bays will likely be warmer for a longer period each year. While no changes in average annual precipitation have been observed, increasing frequency of droughts and floods may be occurring and are projected. This could increase the transport of nutrients to the Bays, which can lead to conditions that create oxygen-depleting algal blooms.

Looking ahead

The State of Delaware has taken action to address climate change through the signing of Executive Order 41 in 2013. This order directs state agencies to address both the causes and consequences of climate change by developing actionable recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, increase resilience to climate impacts, and avoid and minimize flood risks due to sea level rise. While full implementation of this directive will result in reduced greenhouse gases, emissions must be reduced worldwide to make an impact.

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Posted Under: 2016 SotB