Phosphorus and the Chesapeake Bay: Lingering Issues and Emerging Concerns for Agriculture


Hennig Brandt's discovery of phosphorus (P) occurred during the early European colonization of the Chesapeake Bay region. Today, P, an essential nutrient on land and water alike, is one of the principal threats to the health of the bay. Despite widespread implementation of best management practices across the Chesapeake Bay watershed following the implementation in 2010 of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) to improve the health of the bay, P load reductions across the bay's 166,000-km(2) watershed have been uneven, and dissolved P loads have increased in a number of the bay's tributaries. As the midpoint of the 15-yr TMDL process has now passed, some of the more stubborn sources of P must now be tackled. For nonpoint agricultural sources, strategies that not only address particulate P but also mitigate dissolved P losses are essential. Lingering concerns include legacy P stored in soils and reservoir sediments, mitigation of P in artificial drainage and stormwater from hotspots and converted farmland, manure management and animal heavy use areas, and critical source areas of P in agricultural landscapes. While opportunities exist to curtail transport of all forms of P, greater attention is required toward adapting P management to new hydrologic regimes and transport pathways imposed by climate change.