The value of wetlands
Over the past several decades, our understanding and appreciation
of wetlands and wetland values have greatly increased. Many of the Chesapeake
Bay's living resources depend on wetlands for their survival. Large flocks
of migratory ducks, geese and swans spend winters using the marshes for
feeding and cover.
Other wildlife, including muskrats, beaver, otter, ospreys,
and various wading, marsh and songbirds rely year round on wetland habitat.
Thousands of smaller animals, including aquatic insects, snails, mussels,
tiny crustaceans and other important members of the food web thrive in
Wetlands also have important economic and recreational
values, since they are vitally important to the production of many finfish
and shellfish. Roughly two-thirds of our commercially valuable fish and
most shellfish use tidal wetlands as spawning and/or nursery areas.
As a haven for boating, fishing, crabbing, waterfowl hunting,
hiking, birdwatching, wildlife study, photography and canoeing, the wetlands
of the Bay states have an intrinsic natural beauty. Over 46 million Americans
enjoy recreational fishing, while 5 million hunt waterfowl, both wetland
Controlling flood and storm waters is another important
function of wetlands. Fast-moving flood or storm waters are slowed by
the vegetation and temporarily stored in wetland areas. Subsequent gradual
release of the water minimizes erosion and urban/suburban property damage.
As upland runoff and drainage waters pass through wetlands, they are essentially
cleansed. This water quality improvement is due to the wetland's ability
to process excess nutrients, intercept other pollutants, trap sediment
and reduce suspended solids in the overlying water.
Wetlands need our protection.