Wetland photo by Bill Gill, USFWS

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Chesapeake Wetlands

Wetland values

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 wetland communities.

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 related activities.

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.