Illustration by Greg Harlin, Wood Ronsaville Harlin, Inc.
An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among living and non-living things. Air, water, soil, sunlight, plants and animals – including humans – make up an ecosystem. Ecosystems can be as tiny as a patch of dirt in your backyard, or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is an extremely productive and complex ecosystem. The Bay ecosystem consists of the Bay itself, its local rivers and streams, and all the plants and animals it supports.
Like any other system, an ecosystem is composed of interrelated parts that interact with each other to form a whole. All of the plants and animals in an ecosystem depend on each other in some way. For example, predators eat prey, and animals find shelter among plants. Even the smallest creatures play an important role in their ecosystem.
Every living thing needs a healthy ecosystem to survive. Human activities affect the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem by adding pollution, using resources and changing the character of the land. However, we can make better choices in our everyday lives to lessen our footprint on the Bay ecosystem’s health.