Chester-Choptank Watershed Wetland Assessment

The Chester-Choptank watershed is located partially in Kent County and partially in New Castle County, where it encompasses 113,944 acres of land. Unlike most of Delaware’s watersheds, the Chester-Choptank drains to the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay drainage basin in Delaware, including the Chester-Choptank watershed, provides an estimated $3.4 billion in ecosystem goods and services.

Wetlands within the Delaware portion of the watershed are all non-tidal, freshwater wetlands. This watershed is a combination of multiple watersheds, including Sassafras River, Elk River, Chester River, and Upper Choptank River. The landscape is dominated by agriculture, followed by wetlands then development. Approximately 35% of the land area of the Chester-Choptank watershed is covered by wetlands.

By 2007, more than 25,000 acres of the watershed’s historic wetlands, or 39% of historic wetland acreage, had been lost, mostly due to land conversion such as residential development. Impacts to wetland health reduce a wetland’s ability to perform fully, minimizing its valuable role in providing ecosystem services for both people and wildlife.

Overall, the Chester-Choptank watershed’s wetlands received a B for their health score. Common wetland stressors were residential development, agriculture, selective cut harvesting, and the presence of invasive species.

Long Term Goals

The Chester-Choptank watershed needs your help. Despite positive steps forward, wetland loss and degradation have continued in the Chesapeake Bay basin, such as in the Chester-Choptank watershed. Based on this study, several recommendations were made to improve management and encourage informed decision making. These included:

  • Maintain adequate buffers through natural vegetation around non-tidal wetlands in the watershed.
  • Perform wetland monitoring to detect common stressor and address them as quickly as possible.
  • Conduct conservation and restoration activities to increase the overall health of the wetlands in the watershed.
  • Increase citizen education and outreach; inform landowners the benefit wetlands provide and create a reachable understanding of how wetlands are relevant to the public.
  • Encourage landowners to protect and enhance wetlands or buffers on their property.
  • Engage in best management practices in agricultural and urban settings.
  • Work with decision makers to improve the protection of non-tidal wetlands for the future.

Wetland Assessment Report

For more information about the Condition Report, contact Alison Rogerson, at 302-739-9939.

Photo of a wooded wetland with tree trunks rising out of standing water in the foreground and green understory in the background.