Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Special Report No. 474 in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering


Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) represents a partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the coastal states to promote informed management of the Nation’s estuaries and habitats. Designated in 1991, and administered by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) of William & Mary, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia (CBNERR-VA or Reserve) is one of 30 protected areas, which encompass over 1.3 million acres and make up the NERRS.

As the nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay contains a diverse collection of habitats and salinity regimes. In order to incorporate the diversity of habitats in the lower Bay subregion, CBNERR-VA incorporates a multi-component network along the salinity gradient of the York River estuary (YRE). The Reserve’s four components are: (1) Goodwin Islands (148 ha; 366 ac), an archipelago of polyhaline saltmarsh islands surrounded by inter-tidal flats, extensive submerged aquatic vegetation beds, and shallow open estuarine waters near the mouth of the YRE; (2) Catlett Islands (220 ha; 542 ac), consisting of multiple parallel ridges of forested wetland hammocks, maritime-forest uplands, and emergent mesohaline salt marshes; (3) Taskinas Creek (433 ha; 1070 ac), containing non-tidal feeder streams that drain oak-hickory forests, maple-gum-ash swamps and freshwater marshes which transition into tidal oligo and mesohaline salt marshes; and (4) Sweet Hall Marsh (443 ha; 1094 ac), an extensive tidal freshwater-oligohaline marsh ecosystem located in the Pamunkey River, one of two major tributaries of the York River.

This plan aligns with and complements the NERRS 2017-2022 Strategic Plan and VIMS's 2015-2020 Strategic Plan while building upon previous accomplishments and the desire to address current priority issues and meet future challenges. Its intent is to provide a vision and framework to guide Reserve activities for program undertakings over the five-year period from 2022-2027.


doi: 10.25773/5k5f-jf24


Chesapeake BChesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve System -- Management -- Planning, Estuarine area conservation -- Chesapeake Bay Watershed -- Planning