Located where land meets water, wetlands trap polluted runoff and slow of the flow of nutrients, sediment and chemical contaminants into rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. By soaking up stormwater and dampening storm surges, wetlands slow the erosion of shorelines and protect properties from floods. Wetlands also provide critical habitat for fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates, and support recreational fishing and hunting across the watershed.
As of 2010, there were approximately 282,291 acres of tidal wetlands in the watershed’s estuarine drainage area. This marks a loss of 1,566 acres since 1992.
In 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Program adopted a goal to create or reestablish 85,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands to the watershed, almost all of which will take place on agricultural lands. Between 2010 and 2015, 7,623 acres of wetlands were created or reestablished on agricultural lands.
Wetlands are threatened by shoreline development, sea level rise and invasive species: development along beaches and shorelines blocks the creation of further wetland habitat and creates excess sediment; sea level rise floods wetlands with saltwater, destroying plants faster than they can populate higher ground; and invasive plants and animals crowd out native species and damage wetland habitat.