Wetlands

Wetlands are critical in supporting the healthy waters and diverse wildlife of the region. But development, invasive species and sea level rise threaten these important areas.

FAQ

  • What makes an area a wetland?

    An area is considered a wetland based on its plants and soil. Wetlands are dominated by plants called “hydrophytes” that are adapted for life in wet soils. Wetlands also have hydric soils, meaning they are periodically saturated or flooded.

  • What threatens wetlands?

    Wetlands are threatened by direct impacts such as shoreline development and invasive species, as well as water-quality impacts from excess nutrients, sediment and chemical contaminants. Many wetlands are also at risk to effects from climate change and sea level rise.

  • What benefits do wetlands provide?

    Wetlands filter polluted runoff, ease flood and storm damages, provide habitat for wildlife and offer opportunities for recreation like fishing, hunting and bird-watching.

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Terms

  • Habitat

    The natural home or environment in which a plant, animal or other organism lives, feeds and/or breeds.

  • Hydric soil

    Soil that is saturated or flooded with water for long enough during the growing season that its upper portion develops anaerobic or low-oxygen conditions.

  • Hydrophyte

    A plant that grows only in or on water or very moist soil.

  • Nutrients

    Chemicals that plants and animals need to grow and survive but, in excess amounts, can harm aquatic environments. Elevated levels of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous are the main cause of poor water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Sediment

    Loose particles of sand, silt and clay that settle on the bottom of rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans. Suspended sediment pushed into the water by erosion is one of the biggest impairments to water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Tributary

    A creek, stream or river that flows into a larger body of water. For example, the Susquehanna, Potomac and James rivers are tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Wetland

    A transitional zone between land and water that is periodically flooded. For example, marshes, swamps and bogs are all wetlands.

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