2 What is an estuary?An estuary is a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the seawater.Estuaries and the lands surrounding them are places of transition from land to sea, and from freshwater to saltwater.
3 Estuaries trap nutrients and sediment that are carried from the land by rivers and from the ocean by tides.The tidal action and river flow are constantly mixing these nutrients creating a fertile area for plants and animals.
4 Estuaries are influenced by the tides while being protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds, and storms.Estuaries are shallow and sunlight penetrates to the bottom. This promotes plant growth.
5 Estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. Estuaries are also good nurseries because they provide a protected environment for species to hatch and grow in before they migrate to the sea.
6 Estuaries help control coastal erosion and reduce inland flooding. Estuaries also serve as environmental filters as the plants (like salt marsh grass) and animals (like oysters) filter pollutants out of the water.
7 Estuary Features and Landforms Each estuary includes a variety of habitats. Some may be bordered by marshes.Estuary features such as swamps or lagoons form behind barrier islands and beaches.
8 Estuary Features and Landforms Bays, harbors, sounds, and inlets are all estuaries.Bayous are formed by channels of slow moving water leading from a river or lake.
9 Estuary Features and Landforms Salt marshes form in estuaries in areas protected from high-energy waves.Tidal flats are part of many estuaries. Oyster and clams are harvested here.
10 Estuary Features and Landforms Mangrove forests surround wetland areas in southern, tropical estuaries.In mountainous areas, estuaries may be found in seaside fjords.
11 Estuary LifeMany types of plants grow in estuaries. One of the most common is cordgrass.Eelgrass is another common plant that grows in brackish water.Plants are not usually termed “residents”Brackish water has more salinity than freshwater but not as much as seawater.
12 Residents of Estuaries Many bivalves, such as oysters (above), and mussels (below), inhabit estuaries.Add labels for pictures
13 Residents of Estuaries Blue crabs are harvested to eat.Diamondback terrapins are the only turtle that lives in brackish water.
14 Residents of Estuaries Killifish thrive in estuaries.Alewives live in salt water but move through estuaries and into rivers to spawn. They are a favorite prey species for salmon and many other predators.
15 Residents of Estuaries Coho salmon migrate up rivers to spawn each year, returning to the area they were spawned.Great blue herons feed on fish and amphibians living in estuaries.