Wetlands are transitional areas between land and water. Marshes - a type of tidal wetland - are wet areas along the shoreline where aquatic grasses and sedges grow.
Hundreds of species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates depend on marshes and wetlands for food. Thousands of aquatic species, including worms, periwinkles, insects, ribbed mussels and tiny crustaceans, thrive in wetlands. In turn, larger animals eat these small species.
Marshes and wetlands also provide shelter for a variety of animals. Two-thirds of the nation's commercial fish and shellfish depend on wetlands as nursery or spawning areas. Large flocks of waterfowl visit wetlands during their winter migrations to feed and rest. And mammals such as muskrats and beavers build their homes in wetlands.
Click on the images below to learn about some of the critters that live in the Chesapeake Bay's marshes and wetlands.