Ecology of Buzzards Bay: An Estuarine Profile
WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INST MA BIOLOGY DEPT
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A Buzzards Bay remains one of the few relatively pristine bays in the metropolitan corridor from Washington to Boston. The bay and its surrounding marshes and uplands have provided a variety of biotic resources not only to European settlers over nearly 400 years but also to the Native Americans who relied on this estuary for thousands of years before them. Today the uplands are divided between 18 communities, and while the bay is still exploited for its biotic resources, its aesthetic and recreational values add to the growing concern to preserve its environmental quality. At the same time, it has become clear that the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem, like almost all estuarine systems, is controlled not just by processes within the bay waters themselves but also by inputs from the surrounding uplands as well. Therefore, to properly understand and manage this system, it is important to detail activities and land use patterns within the watershed as well as within the tidal reach of the bay waters. This combined watershed-bay system is referred to as the Buzzards Bay Ecosystem and is the necessary frame of reference for understanding - the biotic structure of the bay and for managing and conserving its resources. This community profile provides an overview of the ecology of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem. It is not intended to represent an all-inclusive review of the literature instead it is an attempt to present key features of the bay in a readily accessible form and to summarize the dominant ecological processes that structure the bay environment. Because the current and future environmental health of these types of embayments can be directly influenced by activities within contributing watersheds, understanding the interactions between land and sea is an important component to understanding the ecosystem as a whole.