This study is an important step towards understanding wildlife populations off Maryland’s coast and more broadly in the mid-Atlantic United States. Results from this study can be used to inform siting, address environmental permitting requirements, and inform efforts to minimize potential effects of future development or other proposed offshore activities.
Download Wildlife Studies Offshore of Maryland. This 8-page summary publication represents an overview of results from the final technical report for the Maryland-focused study, and features survey results and case studies on marine mammals, sea turtles, and wintering seabirds. The Executive Summary for the technical report is also available here.
Additional results and case studies can be found in the 32-page synthesis report for the mid-Atlantic regional study, Mid-Atlantic Wildlife Studies: Distribution and Abundance of Wildlife along the Eastern Seaboard, 2012-2014.
Species-specific responses to environmental factors varied widely, and strong seasonal and interannual variations in community composition and wildlife distributions were observed offshore of Maryland. The study area was used by many species during breeding or nonbreeding periods, and was also an important part of many species' migration routes.
Areas near the mouths of Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay had high diversity and abundance of animals throughout the year, and were likely attractive to a wide variety of species due to gradients in salinity, water temperature, and primary productivity. Ocean waters offshore of northern Maryland within roughly 20-30 km of shore were also a consistent hotspot for many taxa, which may have been partially driven by the density of nearshore surveys in this part of the regional study area.
Researchers observed greater abundances of many species within 30-40 km of shore. Wintering seabirds, such as scoters, were one driver of this pattern; scoters were highly abundant, and large flocks occurred almost entirely in nearshore areas. Red-throated Loons, Bottlenose Dolphins, and many gulls and terns also tended to be observed nearshore. Other species were widely distributed across the study area, including Common Loons, Northern Gannets, and storm-petrels, while others were primarily offshore, including Common Dolphins, sea turtles, and alcids. Despite the importance of offshore areas for many animals, however, the highest abundance and diversity occurred in nearshore areas.
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