This week is National Estuaries Week (NEW) – a nationwide celebration of bays and estuaries and the benefits they provide. Estuaries are coastal bodies of water where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with saltwater–essentially places of transition between land and sea. Rivers like Great Egg Harbor River, Tom’s River, Maurice River, Cedar Creek, Tuckahoe River, and most notably the Delaware River all form estuaries at their mouths (the Delaware Bay is our largest local estuary, and was designated as a Site of Hemispheric Importance to Shorebirds).
Estuarine environments are among the most productive on Earth, containing many different habitats within and around them. Shallow open waters, freshwater and saltwater marshes, swamps, sandy beaches, mud and sand flats, rocky shores, oyster reefs, mangrove forests, river deltas, tidal pools and seagrass beds are all features of these important coastal environments. Because they’re both sheltered and productive, estuaries are ideal stopover sites for migratory birds, providing lifesaving resources that help them on their epic journeys. They also support unique communities of plants and animals–like Diamondback Terrapins–that have adapted to life in these brackish margins between land and sea. And many marine organisms, including most commercially-important species of fish, depend on estuaries at some point during their development.
Sadly, estuaries are also some of the most threatened habitats. Coastal development, pollution, and sea level rise all pose serious risks to estuaries and the human and animal communities that depend on them.
You can learn more about estuaries at the website for Restore America’s Estuaries (https://estuaries.org/), through the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (https://www.nerra.org/estuaries-week/) or through the National Estuarine Research Reserves website (https://coast.noaa.gov/nerrs/).
#EstuariesWeek #wetlandsinstitute #DelawareBay #newjersey
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