Paleoecology Studies in Chesapeake Bay: A Model System for Understanding Interactions Between Climate, Anthropogenic Activities and the Environment

  • Elizabeth A. Canuel
  • Grace S. Brush
  • Thomas M. Cronin
  • Rowan Lockwood
  • Andrew R. Zimmerman
Part of the Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research book series (DPER, volume 20)


Sediments provide one of the best reservoirs of information of how aquatic ecosystems have been altered by natural (climate change) and human agents over time. This information is preserved in a variety of biogenic materials including macro- and microfossils, pollen and chemical proxies, which record ecological responses to past perturbations. Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is particularly well-suited to paleoenvironmental studies due to high rates of sediment accumulation, good preservation potential and historical records that can be used to corroborate evidence of change over the past several centuries. Previous paleoecological studies in Chesapeake Bay have examined how climate change and human activities have modified vegetation, species composition, sediment supply and carbon delivery over time. In this chapter, we review a variety of paleoecological approaches that have been employed to understand how the Bay ecosystem has changed over time. These proxies include microfossils (benthic foraminifera and ostracods), pollen and seeds, chemical fingerprints (stable isotopes, lipid biomarker compounds and black carbon), and mollusk shells preserved in sediment core records.


Chesapeake Bay Paleoecology Biomarkers Mollusks Microfossils Pollen Lipid biomarkers Eutrophication 



EC gratefully acknowledges support from the Chemical Oceanography Program of the National Science Foundation (OCE-9521190 and OCE-0962277) and support provided by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. RL would like to thank L. Chastant, L. Work, A. Edwards-Simonson, S. Kolbe, E. Morgan, E. Gercke, M. Oreska, M. Whalen, and J. Brockman for all of their hard work collecting and analyzing the benthic molluscan data; D. Dauer (CBP), B. Rodi (CBP), R. Llanso (CBP), and R. Seitz (VIMS) for generously providing live data and death-assemblage material; T. Cronin and D. Willard (USGS) for access to the Marion-Dufresne cores and radiocarbon dates; D. Kauffman and J. Bright for facilitating the AAR dating; B. Rodi, S. Arcuri, and L. Scott for taxonomic support; and S. Kidwell for shell-mineralogy data; Acknowledgment is made to the Donors of the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund and the Jeffress Memorial Trust for partial support of this work. This paper is a contribution of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Canuel
    • 1
  • Grace S. Brush
    • 2
  • Thomas M. Cronin
    • 3
  • Rowan Lockwood
    • 4
  • Andrew R. Zimmerman
    • 5
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceGloucester PointUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental EngineeringJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyRestonUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeologyThe College of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  5. 5.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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