What is an Estuary?
WHAT IS AN ESTUARY?
An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where fresh and salt water meets. They are influenced by tides, but freshwater tributaries dilute the salt water. Estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth because of the mixing of nutrients from land and sea.
WHY IS AN ESTUARY IMPORTANT?
Estuaries are important nursery grounds for many organisms that later move to oceanic habitats as adults. These rich ecosystems are economically valuable, providing habitat at some life stage for 75% of our nation’s commercial fish catch, and as much as 90% of recreational fish catch. Additionally, estuaries act as natural filtration systems for water as it flows out to the ocean. The fishing opportunities, unique flora and fauna, and natural beauty of estuarine areas draw millions of tourists each year. Unfortunately, many estuaries are threatened by human impacts such as pollution and habitat destruction. We must ensure that we protect this unique ecosystem, and even restore it when necessary.
WHAT LIVES IN AN ESTUARY?
Check out our helpful cards to help identify some of the organisms you might see in the estuary!
(click image to download)
Be sure to keep an eye out for invasive species such as the Brazilian Pepper and Australian Pine!
These organisms out-compete native species, disrupting the health and function of the estuarine system.
Brazilian Pepper Invasion
Australian Pine Invasion