Learn how the Bay, its habitats and the plants and animals they support form a productive and complex ecosystem.

Illustration by Greg Harlin, Wood Ronsaville Harlin, Inc.

An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among living and non-living things: interrelated parts that interact with each other to form a whole. Air, water, soil, sunlight, plants and animals–including humans–make up an ecosystem, which can be as tiny as a patch of dirt in your backyard or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Chemical Makeup

    Study the chemical factors that affect where plants and animals thrive throughout the Bay, from brackish water to dissolved gases.

  • Dissolved Oxygen

    Learn how much oxygen the Bay’s living creatures need to survive, and what happens when low-oxygen areas form.

  • Food Web

    Explore how complex connections between predators and prey help form a healthy, balanced food web.

  • Geology

    Travel back to when the Chesapeake Bay was first formed to learn about the geologic history of the region.

  • Life at the Bottom

    Dig deep into the world of benthic organisms: the clams, worms, oysters and mussels that live at the bottom of the Bay and its rivers.

  • Physical Characteristics

    Understand how salinity, temperature and water circulation work together to form the unique physical conditions in the Bay.

  • Plankton

    Get an up-close look at some of the smallest—and most vital—residents of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

  • The Estuary

    Dive into the unique habitat that is an estuary, where fresh water from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean.

  • Water Clarity

    Discover how clear water helps sunlight reach underwater plants and animals, and how pollution can block the sun’s rays.