Understanding the ecology of the Bay is an important part of understanding the importance of different management practices. Management strategies in the Bay strive to reduce the amount of pollution and toxins within the Bay and restore habitats for the thousands of species that thrive there. The estuary is a complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and food chains.The terms often used to describe the bay include estuary, watershed, and wetland. Below you will find explanations of what these terms mean.
An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where fresh water from streams and rivers mix with salt water from the ocean. Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. Estuaries provide diverse habitats for wildlife and aquatic life, protect our communities against flooding, reduce pollution to waterways, and support local economies through commercial and recreational activities.
A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. The Chesapeake Bay watershed stretches across more than 64,000 square miles.
You can locate your nearest watershed by using the EPA Surf Your Watershed feature.
A wetland is an area where water covers the soil or is present at or near the surface all year for varying periods of time during the year. Wetlands also provide habitat to hundreds of fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has developed a video to describe the importance of wetlands to the health of the Bay. This video provided by the Chesapeake Bay Program provides insight into why wetlands are important in the the Bay.