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This photograph shows a heron. Herons like the Great Blue Heron stand about 4 feet tall and have a wing span of more than 6 feet! Herons like to hunt in the shallow coves of Chesapeake Bay, especially in all of the tributaries that empty out into the Bay. The Bay provides small fish, salamanders, frogs, snakes, lizards, shellfish, rodents and many insects for the herons to feast upon.
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Courtesy of USGS (United States Geological Survey

Life in Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay and its watershed support more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals. 2,700 species of plants alone live in the Chesapeake Bay area. These plants serve as the base for the foodchain in this system. Without these plants, the fish, birds and other animals couldn't exist.

Some of the most important plants in Chesapeake Bay live completely underwater. They are known as SAV or submerged aquatic vegetation. These underwater grasses provide food for fish, birds and shellfish. They also provide a place for fish and other creatures to lay their eggs and hide their young. During photosynthesis, SAV's release oxygen to the water which is necessary for other creatures. Human actions like agriculture, construction, destruction of forests for new malls and parking lots, and pollution threaten healthy growth of SAV. Since the rest of the life in Chesapeake Bay depends on SAV growth, it seems logical that humans need to look closely at things they do that upset the balance for the rest of life in Chesapeake Bay.

The Bay is home to many fish, from the Bay anchovy to the sandbar shark. It supports blue crabs, horshoe crabs and American oysters. In fact, humans get over 500 million pounds of seafood from the Bay each year! Sea turtles, eels, dolphins, rays, seahorses, and jellyfish also fill the Bay waters.

And hundreds of thousands of birds call Chesapeake Bay their home. Some stay all year round, others only winter there. Beautiful species like bald eagles, snowy egrets, great blue herons, geese, swans, ducks and gulls all live in this place.

Last modified June 19, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

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