Wetlands are transitional areas between land and water. While some wetlands are noticeably wet, others do not always have visible water.
An area is defined as a wetland based on its soils and vegetation. All wetlands are dominated by hydrophytes, which are plants that are adapted for life in wet soils. Wetlands also have hydric soils, which are soils that are periodically saturated or flooded.
There are two broad categories of wetlands found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed:
Wetlands are further distinguished by their vegetation.
Wetlands provide critical habitat for hundreds of species of fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates. They also improve the health of the Bay and protect shorelines and property, as well as provide opportunities for outdoor activities.
Situated between the land and the water, wetlands act as buffers by slowing the flow of pollutants into the Bay and its tributaries. As polluted stormwater runs off the land and passes through wetlands, the trees and grasses in wetlands filter and absorb nutrients, suspended sediments and chemical contaminants before these pollutants can flow to nearby waterways.
Wetlands also help control erosion. Just like a sponge, wetlands soak up and hold large amounts of flood water and stormwater runoff, gradually releasing the water over time. Wetlands along the edges of streams, creeks, rivers and the Bay stabilize shorelines and protect properties from floods and wave action.
Wetlands are especially important in our cities, towns and suburbs, where development and impervious surfaces increase the rate and volume of polluted stormwater runoff.
Countless wildlife species that live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed depend on wetlands for their survival.
Wetlands are economically valuable because they provide opportunities for fishing, crabbing and hunting. Since they are habitat for commercially important fish and shellfish, wetlands are vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay's commercial fishing industries.
Additionally, many people visit wetlands for popular hobbies and family activities such as boating, bird watching, photography and wildlife study.
The Chesapeake 2000 agreement charged Chesapeake Bay Program partners with restoring 25,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands in the Bay watershed by 2010. These wetland acres would be gained through voluntary projects. In 2005, Bay Program partners clarified this goal to track only wetland establishment and re-establishment projects, which represent true gains in wetland acreage.
There are five specific definitions scientists use to track wetland gains:
Establishment and re-establishment are considered wetland acreage gains, whereas enhancement and rehabilitation only improve the function of existing wetland acres. Protection is not considered to be a gain in acreage or function.
Investments in habitat conservation can strengthen fisheries and the economies that depend on them.
More than 3,700 acres of wetlands were restored last year, an acreage equivalent to 2,855 football fields.
The nonprofit Friends of Dyke Marsh helps preserve, restore and celebrate this rare Potomac River ecosystem.
A team of scientists and trappers is working to eradicate nutria from the Chesapeake Bay by 2015.
View photos from Fisherman Island, a tiny wildlife refuge at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Publication date: November 08, 2005 | Type of document: Policy Memorandum | Download: Electronic Version
The Chesapeake Bay Program recognized the importance of wetlands in Chesapeake 2000, which charged signatories to reach specific goals by 2010. This memo provides an update on the 2005 Wetlands Evaluation and outline the the PSCs decisions…
Publication date: February 01, 2002 | Type of document: Report | Download: Electronic Version
State and federal agencies have been engaged in restoration and creation of wetlands for many years, generally as part of programs focused on habitat and water quality management. In the late 1990s recognition of the growing cumulative loss…
Publication date: November 11, 2001 | Type of document: Fact Sheet
Fact sheet describing the functions and values of wetlands , status and trends in wetlands, wetland hot spots, causes of wetland loss, and partnerships for conservation and protection of wetlands
Publication date: December 07, 1999 | Type of document: Policy Memorandum | Download: Electronic Version
Wetlands, both tidal and non-tidal, play a critical role in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, a role the Chesapeake Bay Program recognized in the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the 1989 Chesapeake Bay Wetlands Policy and Directive 97-2,…
Publication date: February 01, 1998 | Type of document: Report
This work contains the following themes as they relate to the Chesapeake Bay: The Living Natural Bay/Ecosystems, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability of the Bay/Stewardship
Publication date: October 30, 1997 | Type of document: Directive | Download: Electronic Version
Both tidal and non-tidal wetlands critical role in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, is emphasized in this in this directive and specific actions are recommended to maintain existing wetland and to restore wetland acreage and functions in order…
Publication date: April 01, 1997 | Type of document: Report
This work contains the following themes as they relate to the Chesapeake Bay: The Living Natural Bay/Ecosystems, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability of the Bay/Stewardship .
Publication date: March 01, 1997 | Type of document: Report
This work contains the following themes as they relate to the Chesapeake Bay: The Living Natural Bay/Ecosystems
Publication date: October 01, 1994 | Type of document: Report
The purpose of this guidance document is to clarify the concept of wetland mitigation and to prove a common approach to mitigation that will allow governmental decisions to rely on a sound scientific bases.
Publication date: May 01, 1994 | Type of document: Report
The report includes methods, interpretation of results, results for the Watershed, results by State, wetland loss hotspots, discussion and conclusions and recommendations.
Publication date: September 01, 1993 | Type of document: Report
The Wetlands Implementation Plan is designed to achieve the wetlands policy goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Both guidance and recommendations to restructure the original implementation plan are addressed.
Publication date: January 01, 1993 | Type of document: Report
This is a report on Chesapeake Bay Wetlands Research Recommendations and Program Descriptions.