Page Contents:

What is an Estuary?

Definition

Zones of an Estuary

Salt Marshes, Seagrass, and Mangroves

Why are Estuaries Important?

Maintain Vital Food Supplies

Protect Nature's Bounty

Supports the Economy

Preserves a Way of Life

Education

 

What is an Estuary?

Definition

An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water formed by fresh water from rivers flowing into and buy generic prednisone mixing with ocean saltwater. Often, the fresh water is prevented from flowing into the open ocean by land masses such as peninsulas, islands, or surrounding salt marshes. This makes estuaries unique environments that sustain a diverse biological community of plants and animals. Some of the most commonly known estuaries in the United States are the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and the Indian River Lagoon.

                         

Zones of an Estuary

Estuaries can essentially be divided into three tidal zones: the supratidal zone, the intertidal zone, and the subtidal zone.  The supratidal zone is the area above high tide that extends up to higher land. Mostly terrestrial animals and plants live here. The intertidal zone is the area that is covered with water during high tide and barren during low tide. This often includes rocky cliffs or mud flats. Because this environment is very harsh, few types of organisms have the resilience to live there. Finally, the subtidal zone is the area that extends from below the low tide line towards open water. 

The zones of an estuary. (Diagram from Taking Nature's Pulse: Section 2: B.C.'s Natural Legacy) 

Resources: 

http://oregontidepools.org/tidalzones 

http://estuaries.noaa.gov/About/Default.aspx?ID=236 

http://www.montereyinstitute.org/noaa/lesson10/l10la2.html

Salt Marshes, Seagrass, and Mangroves

Though coastal habitats can vary depending on geographic region, the three main hbaitat types include salt marshes, seagrasses and mangroves. 
 
Salt marshes are coastal wetlands dominated by grass and shrub plants. Salt marshes are often characterized by having very high salinity (salt content) and sporadic small islands. Organisms that live here must withstand harsh environments due to rapidly changing tides and salinity. In addition to providing kay marine habitat, salt marshes help to filter pollutants, stabilize the shoreline, serve as a buffer to storms and viagra generic canada flooding, and sequester and store large amounts or carbon in their soils.  
 
  
 
Seagrass (or submerged aquatic vegetation) habitats are constantly submerged, and
consist of aquatic grasses, providing food and shelter to many aquatic species. They include, but are not limited to, fish, crabs, manatees and sea turtles. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mangroves are a type of tropical forest found in coastal areas that are regularly flooded by tidal water. They are among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics and provide many ecosystem services. They provide spawning grounds for fish species, filter pollutants from coastal waters, and protect coastal development and communities against storms, floods and erosion. These unique evergreen plants can withstand high salinity and improved harsh environments.
 
  
 
 
RAE works to restore all of these habitats in order to preserve a kind of ecosystem that has brought tranquility, education, and jobs to millions of people all over the country.
 
Resources:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Healthy estuaries produce more food per acre than the richest Midwestern farmland because of the fertile mix of nutrients from land and sea. Because of this, there are many types of species that are harvested for human consumption, such as Chesapeake Bay blue crab. 
 
Beyond providing food for our consumption, estuaries are the home of thousands of species of fish, birds, plants, and animals that depend on healthy habitat for their survival.
 
There are 28 million jobs in the fishing, tourism and recreational boating industries -- all of which depend on healthy estuaries for their products and customers. Indeed, estuaries and coastal waters provide essential habitat for 75% of America's commercial fish catch and 80 to 90% of the recreational fish catch. In addition, estuaries provide significant "services" which directly benefit Americans. For example, estuaries protect landowners from flood waters and provide important buffers that protect water quality by filtering runoff.
 
Healthy estuaries support unique, centuries-old cultures, traditions and the best site ways of life dependent upon the diversity of wildlife for everything from livelihoods to storytelling. Estuary restorations will maintain these ways of life -- and the heritage they embody -- for the benefit of future generations.
 
In addition, nearly 200 million Americans -- approximately 70% of the population -- visit estuaries and coastal areas every year for vacations, recreation, sport, or sightseeing.  The more we do to restore estuaries, the more Americans will be able to experience their amazing bounty.
 
For the 110 million Americans who live near estuaries, they are linchpins in people's quality of life: for their scenic beauty, for their recreational opportunities, for their bounty, for their abundance of life and for their mere presence. Restoring estuary habitat is the only way to ensure that this quality of life is protected and improved.
 
Estuaries also act as storm buffers to the mainland, protecting residential areas from harsh storms such as hurricanes. In addition, coastal wetlands also remove and store large amounts of carbon - an ecosystem service referred to as "blue carbon." To learn more about blue carbon and how wetlands mitigating climate change can benefit coastal restoration and conservation efforts, visit our blue carbon webpage.
 
 
 
Estuaries are a matchless educational resource that must be maintained as living laboratories of life. As one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in America, the opportunities for learning are endless. In order to secure these educational opportunities for future generations, restoring and protecting estuaries is essential.