What exactly are wetlands?
Why are they important to the Bay and its living resources
Wetlands are typically defined by the presence of saturated soils and vegetation which is specifically suited to wet conditions. These unique plants, known as hydrophytes, have special adaptations which allow them to live in areas where they are inundated with water for extended periods of time.
Typically, wetlands occur where open water transitions to uplands. They can be very expansive, such as those tidal marshes on the lower Eastern Shore where there is little slope and the transition zone is very wide. Or they can be very narrow fringes along a river or lake edge.
Wetlands can also occur in depressional areas where rainwater collects or where spring seeps emerge or "daylight" from a hillside.
Wetland areas are very important to the health of our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay because they improve water quality by filtering out excess nutrients and other pollutants. Wetlands also reduce flood and storm damage by detaining water for short periods of time then releasing it slowly, minimizing erosion and flood damage. They provide habitat for a wide diversity of plants and animals including many that are threatened and endangered. Wetlands also protect river and coastal shorelines by buffering the erosive action of waves.