What is an estuary?
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Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are bodies of water usually found where rivers meet the sea. Estuaries are home to unique plant and animal communities that have adapted to brackish watera mixture of fresh water draining from the land and salty seawater. However, there are also several types of entirely freshwater ecosystems that have many similar characteristics to the traditional brackish estuaries. For example, along the Great Lakes, river water with very different chemical and physical characteristics mixes with lake water in coastal wetlands that are affected by tides and storms just like estuaries along the oceanic coasts. These freshwater estuaries also provide many of the ecosystem services and functions that brackish estuaries do, such as serving as natural filters for runoff and providing nursery grounds for many species of birds, fish, and other animals. Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. Many animals rely on estuaries for food, places to breed, and migration stopovers.
In addition to classifying estuaries based on their geology, scientists also classify estuaries based on their water circulation. The five major types of estuaries classified according to their water circulation include salt-wedge , fjord , slightly stratified , vertically mixed , and freshwater Levinson, ; USEPA, Water movements in estuaries transport organisms, circulate nutrients and oxygen, and transport sediments and wastes. Once or twice a day, high tides create saltwater currents that move seawater up into the estuary. Low tides, also once or twice a day, reverse these currents. In some estuaries, the mixing of fresh water from rivers and saltwater from the sea is extensive; in others it is not. In the Hudson River in New York, for example, tidal currents carry saltwater over km upstream.
Brackish water is water having more salinity than freshwater , but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater with fresh water together, as in estuaries , or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root " brak ". Certain human activities can produce brackish water, in particular civil engineering projects such as dikes and the flooding of coastal marshland to produce brackish water pools for freshwater prawn farming. Brackish water is also the primary waste product of the salinity gradient power process.
An estuary is an area where a freshwater river or stream meets the ocean. In estuaries, the salty ocean mixes with a freshwater river, resulting in brackish water. Brackish water is somewhat salty, but not as salty as the ocean. An estuary may also be called a bay, lagoon, sound , or slough. Water continually circulate s into and out of an estuary. Tides create the largest flow of saltwater, while river mouth s create the largest flow of freshwater. When dense, salty seawater flows into an estuary, it has an estuarine current.
Basic Information about Estuaries
We've made some changes to EPA. Photo Credit: Marc Hinz. An estuary is a partially enclosed, coastal water body where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Estuaries, and their surrounding lands, are places of transition from land to sea. Although influenced by the tides, they are protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds and storms by land forms such as barrier islands or peninsulas. The sheltered waters of estuaries also support unique communities of plants and animals specially adapted for life at the margin of the sea. Estuaries provide us with a suite of resources, benefits and services.
Mixing Saltwater and Freshwater
What is flowing water ecosystem and what's an example of it? Water that is Where fresh and salt water mix in coastal estuaries they form ______ ecosystems .
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