Image via WikipediaThe Estuary: where fresh and saltwater mix
Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are bodies of water usually found where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries are home to unique plant and animal communities that have adapted to brackish water — a mixture of fresh water draining from the land and salty seawater.
Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. Many animals rely on estuaries for food, places to breed, and migration stopovers.
Human communities also rely on estuaries for food, recreation, jobs, and coastal protection. Of the 32 largest cities in the world, 22 are located on estuaries!
Estuaries are delicate ecosystems. Congress created the National Estuarine Research Reserve System to protect more than one million acres of estuarine land and water. These estuarine reserves provide essential habitat for wildlife, offer educational opportunities for students, and serve as living laboratories for scientists.
Estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, so there is a great diversity of animals and plants that live there
Estuaries - areas where fresh and saltwater mix - are made up of many different types of habitats. These habitats can include oyster reefs, coral reefs, rocky shores, submerged aquatic vegetation, marshes, and mangroves. There are also different animals that live in each of these different habitats. Fish, shellfish, and migratory birds are just a few of the animals that can live in an estuary.
For example, there are several habitats that make up the Chesapeake Bay. There are oyster reefs where oysters, mud crabs, and small fish may be found. Also in the Chesapeake Bay, there is submerged aquatic vegetation where seahorses, blue crabs, and other fish live. Finally, there is open water where sea turtles or rays can be found.
Changing conditions are a necessary part of healthy, functioning estuaries
Estuaries are tidally driven. Tides flush the system and provide nutrients to keep food webs functional. By doing this, tides create constantly changing conditions of exposure to air or increased levels of water in an estuarine environment. Because of tides, the water levels in an estuary are going up and down several times a day.
Estuarine organisms can adapt quite well to these changing conditions in estuaries. For example, fish or crabs are mobile and can move as needed throughout the day to adjust to changes in the estuary.
In addition, weather patterns, seasonal cycles, and climate change also affect and can change conditions in estuaries.
Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are bodies of water usually found where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries are home to unique plant and animal communities that have adapted to brackish water.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, or NERRS, is a partnership between NOAA and coastal states to study and protect vital coastal and estuarine resources
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 28 areas representing different biogeographic regions of the United States. The reserves are protected for long-term research, water quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship. Each reserve is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university, with input from local partners. NOAA provides funding, national guidance, and technical assistance.
Reserve staff work with local communities and regional groups to address natural resource management issues, such as non-point source pollution, habitat restoration, and invasive species. Through integrated research and education, the reserves help communities develop strategies to deal successfully with their coastal resource issues.
Reserves provide adult audiences with training on estuarine issues of concern in their local communities. They also offer field classes for K-12 students and support teachers through professional development programs in marine education.
Thanks to National Ocean Service