Upper Newport Bay Is a Beautiful Estuary

Estuaries are places like no other. Each with its own specific characteristics, but all playing vital roles in the environment and in our lives. Some examples of estuaries’ unique and important features are:

  • Each estuary can make up an individual ecosystem. Look on a world map. The Mississippi Delta estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico are different from estuaries in San Francisco Bay, California. However, estuaries are also interconnected with other surrounding environments (oceans, lakes, forests, grassy plains) and nearby human communities.
  • Estuaries are constantly changing and are areas of transition. Life is dynamic and diverse in estuaries. Some animals and plants specialize in, or adapt to, living in the unique conditions of estuaries.
  • Estuaries vary widely around the world. Earth’s changing geology, flowing water and different weather patterns help create many diverse types of estuarine habitats.
  • Rivers provide nutrients, organic matter, and sediments to estuaries. Rivers flow downstream delivering fresh water from streams, small rocks and silt, and leaves and other vegetation debris. Nutrients support life in the estuary.
  • Estuaries can filter small amounts of pollutants and runoff. Vegetation helps filter and trap silt. However, too much nutrient or sediment input will create an unbalanced situation causing the health of the ecosystem to decline.
  • Estuaries act like huge sponges, buffering and protecting upland areas from crashing waves and storms and preventing soil erosion. They soak up excess water from floods and stormy tidal surges driven into shore from strong winds.
  • Estuaries provide a safe haven and protective nursery for small fish, shellfish, migrating birds, and coastal shore animals. In the U.S., estuaries are nurseries to over 75% of all fish and shellfish harvested.
  • People enjoy living near estuaries and the surrounding coastline. They sail, fish, hike, swim, and enjoy bird watching. An estuary is often the center of a coastal community.

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