Research‎ > ‎

Chesapeake Habitats

The seascapes that harbor fish in the Chesapeake are structured by temperature, salinity, and oxygen.  We have sought to describe the dynamic nature of seascapes by constructing complex multivariable habitat suitability models (Niklitschek and Secor 2009a,b) and relate these to the spatial behaviors of fishes.  NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office is currently supporting development of habitat suitability models for striped bass, modified according to observed preferences of striped bass for certain seascapes.  Support from NOAA Coastal Hypoxia Research Program is allowing us to work with physical and chemical oceanographers to build end-to-end models allowing us to simulate changes to Chesapeake Bay living resource carrying capacity due to scenarios of nutrient inputs and climate change.  Maryland Sea Grant is supporting an effort to develop statistical models that relate living resource changes to coupled human and ecosystem interactions in the Potomac River estuary through an Integrated Ecosystem Assessment. 


A moderate-term project supported by the Chesapeake Bay NOAA Office is to evaluate the role of Chesapeake Bay nursery habitats for recent depressed recruitments by Atlantic menhaden.


Climate Change

The Chesapeake Biological Laboratory supports the oldest climate observing system within the Chesapeake Bay, the CBL research pier.  During the period 1938 to present, temperature has increased c. 2 C.  We have compiled and supplied near daily temperature and salinity records to scientists throughout the nation (Kaushal et al. 2010; Najjar et al. 2010).  Summer and fall juvenile fish collections at the pier, 1999-present, have shown that winter and spring temperature and flow are strong determinants in which fishes are dominant (Wingate et al. 2008).  Thus, coupled environmental-fish community monitoring at CBL provides a unique opportunity to monitor and predict the effects of Chesapeake climate change.   The pier and its observing instrumentation is currently being renovated and enhanced through support by NSF.

Related Publications (available upon request –

Niklitschek, E.J. and Secor, D.H. 2005. Modeling spatial and temporal variation of suitable nursery habitats for Atlantic sturgeon in the Chesapeake Bay. Estuarine and Coastal Shelf Science 64: 135-148.

Secor, D.H. and H. Austin. 2006. Element 8: Externalities, p. 269-306, In Fisheries Ecosystem Planning for Chesapeake Bay.  American Fisheries Society, Bethesda.

Secor, D.H. (Chair), M. Christman, F. Curriero, D. Jasinski, E. Perry, S. Preston, K. Reckhow, M. Trice. 2006.  The Cumulative Frequency Diagram Method for Determining Water Quality Attainment. Report of the Chesapeake Bay Program STAC Panel to Review Chesapeake Bay Program Analytical Tools. (Review of the Chesapeake Bay Program CFD and Interpolator) STAC Publication 06-, 9 October 2006. 75 pp.

Wingate, R.L. and D.H. Secor. 2008. The effects of winter temperature and flow on a summer-fall nursery fish assemblage in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 137: 1147-1156.

Breitburg, Denise L., Craig, J.K., Fulford, R.S., Rose, K.A., Boynton, W.R, Brady, D., Ciotti, B.J., Diaz, R.J., Friedland, K.D., Hagy, J.D. III, Hart, D.R., Hines, A.H., Houde, E.D., Kolesar, S.E., Nixon, S.W., Rice, J.A., Secor, D.H., Targett, T. E. 2009.  Nutrient enrichment and fisheries exploitation: Interactive effects on estuarine living resources and their management. Hydrobiologia 629: 31-47.

Woodland, R.J., D.H. Secor, and E.J. Niklitschek. 2009. Past and future habitat suitability for the Hudson River population of shortnose sturgeon: a bioenergetic approach to modeling habitat suitability for an endangered species. Am. Fish. Soc. Symp. 69: 589-604.

Kerr, L.A., Connolly, B., Martino, E., Peer, A., Secor, D.H., Woodland, R. 2009. Climate change in the US Atlantic affecting recreational fisheries. Rev. Fish. Sci. 17: 267-289.

Niklitschek, E.S. and D.H. Secor. 2009. Dissolved oxygen, temperature and salinity effects on the ecophysiology and survival of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in estuarine waters: I. Laboratory Results. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 381, Suppl. 1: 150-160.

Niklitschek, E.S. and D.H. Secor. 2009. Dissolved oxygen, temperature and salinity effects on the ecophysiology and survival of juvenile Atlantic sturgeon in estuarine waters: II. Model development and testing. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 381, Suppl. 1: 161-172.

Batiuk, R. D. Breitburg, G. Thursby, D. Secor, R. Diaz, and T. Cronin. 2009. Derivation of habitat-specific dissolved oxygen criteria for Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 381, Suppl. 1: 204-215. 

Secor, D.H. 2009. Habitat Suitability Models: State of the Art, Chesapeake Applications. Chesapeake Bay Program Scientific Technical Advisory Committee Report. Publication No. 09-006. 39 pp.

Najjar, R., C.R. Pyke, M.B. Adams, D. Breitburg, C. Hershner, M. Kemp, R. Howarth, M.R. Mulholland, M. Paolisso, D. Secor, K. Sellner, D. Wardrop, and R. Wood.  2010. Potential climate-change impacts on the Chesapeake Bay. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 86: 1-20.


Kaushal, S.S, G.E. Likens, N.A. Jaworski, M.L. Pace, A.M. Sides, D. Seekell, K.T. Belt, D.H. Secor, and R. Wingate. 2010. Rising stream and river temperatures in the United States. Frontiers Ecology and Environmental Science 8: 461-466.

Niklitschek, E.S. and D.H. Secor. 2010. Experimental and field evidence of behavioral habitat selection by juvenile Atlantic (Acipenser oxyrinchus) and shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum) sturgeons. J. Fish Biol. 77: 1293-1308.

Hanks, D.M. and D.H. Secor. 2011. Bioenergetic responses of Chesapeake Bay white perch (Morone americana) to nursery conditions of temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. Mar. Biol. 158: 805-815.

Wingate, R.L., D.H.  Secor, and R.T. Kraus. 2011. Patterns of striped bass residence and migration in a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 140: 1441-1450.

Schlenger, A.J., E. North, Y. Li, K.A. Smith, and D.H. Secor. In Press. Modeling the influence of hypoxia on the potential habitat of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus): a comparison of two methods. Marine Ecology Progress Series

Lozano, C., E.D. Houde, R.L. Wingate, and D.H. Secor. In Press. Age, growth, and hatch dates of ingressing larvae and surviving juveniles of Atlantic menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus in Chesapeake Bay, USA. J. Fish Biology