Ask Dr. Beth McGee

Questions & Answers

Q: How do trees protect the Bay?
Trees perform many functions that help protect water quality in the Bay and its rivers and streams. They anchor the soil, keeping it from rushing into the water. They filter nitrogen and phosphorus pollution with their roots. They shade streams and rivers with their leaves, helping to keep the water a healthy temperature for fish, like trout, that need cold water to survive. And, they pull carbon dioxide from the air, helping to reduce global warming pollution.

Q: Why does the dead zone only happen in summer?
A: Every summer, the Bay suffers from an oxygen-deprived area called the "dead zone." This means that there is not enough dissolved oxygen in the water for fish, crabs, and other aquatic species to survive. The dead zone is caused by decaying blooms of algae that gobble up oxygen as they die—something that happens when temperatures are higher. To make matters worse, warm water holds less oxygen than colder water.

Q: Is it safe to eat crabs from the Chesapeake Bay?
Normally, yes. Although the Bay's waterways aren't as healthy as they should be, most scientists agree that—unless warnings have been issued—it is safe to eat crabs from the Bay. Toxics like mercury and other chemicals have been found in crabmeat and the "mustard," but in most areas, in amounts too small to affect humans.

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