Posted by admin | 09.27.2011 | Conservation, Marine Science

Salute to our salt marsh

September 24th was National Estuaries Day, and as our past campers can attest we love these habitats. For this blog entry we want to highlight their vital importance to the planet. They can be found all along our coasts, and are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet.

An estuary is a place where different bodies of water meet. The most common form is freshwater mixing with salt water, where rivers meet oceans forming brackish water (0.5 – 30 ppt).  There are, however, examples of freshwater estuaries where the ppt is less than 0.5. The different types of estuaries are listed below with familiar examples:

Estuary Type Example
Coastal Plain Chesapeake Bay
Bar-Built Here in North Carolina
Delta System Mouth of the Mississippi River
Tectonic San Francisco Bay
Fjord Glacier Bay, AK

If you enjoy eating seafood, going for a nice paddle in the marsh, or taking a dip in coastal waters you need to appreciate this ecosystem. The estuary provides resting and nesting habitat for birds, mammals, fish, shellfish, and reptiles. Commercially fishermen rely on estuaries as nursery habitats for the fish, shrimp, crab, and other edibles that they wish to harvest. Also estuaries are able to filter small amounts of pollutants and runoff that could otherwise pose threats to water quality.

Estuaries are places of change; tides, waves, wind, water circulation, salinity, temperature, season, and climate fluctuate and result in a corresponding change in the marine life that live there. Also having a substantial impact on estuarine life are humans.

With such a large percent of the population living near the coast there are bound to be problems. Increased coastal development has destroyed or permanently altered estuaries. With the increase in the number of people, there is also a corresponding increase in polluted runoff containing pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful chemicals. Dams and dredging alter the flow of water, and therefore the habitat. Both the removal of species (overfishing) and the addition of others (invasive species) have negative impacts on life in the estuary.

By helping clean up around your community and the waterfront, you can bolster the health of the estuary. Celebrate National Estuaries Day every day!