Maryland's Coastal Bays support a diverse and complex interaction of plant and animal communities, some of which, in turn, support valuable commercial and recreational industries.  All depend on the quality of  Coastal Bays habitat for survival.

Bay grasses or seagrasses (technically known as Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, or SAV) provide essential nursery habitat for many ecologically, commercially, and recreationally important fish and shellfish. The total area of seagrass beds has more than doubled in the last decade to over 11,000 acres.

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Bottom communities
are showing signs of stress, especially in artificial canals and tributaries.

Fish communities generally appear to be in good condition, but there are concerns for some species. Forage fish index scores have steadily decreased over the past decade.

Many bird species also thrive in the Coastal Bays, but many are suffering from habitat loss.

A total of 19 species of animals and 89 species of plants are currently on the Maryland list of rare, threatened, or endangered species in the Coastal Bays (six of which are also federally listed).  Endangered animal species found in the Coastal Bays include: Little white tiger beetle, Piping plover, Royal tern, White tiger beetle, and Wilson's plover.

Invasive species found in the Coastal Bays include: Japanese Shore Crab; Hemigrapsus sanguineus, Green Crab; Carcinus Maenus, and Codium, a seaweed. Though a true comprehensive assessment is lacking, the Coastal Bays National Estuary Program (www.mdcoastalbays.org) has developed a list of nuisance/exotic species in the Coastal Bays. 

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