National Estuarine Research Reserves

Living Laboratories for Science, Education, and Protection

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 28 estuarine areas—places where freshwater from the land mixes with saltwater from the sea—established across the nation for long-term research, education, and coastal stewardship. The reserves are a partnership between NOAA and the coastal states and territories. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management is responsible for administrating the reserve system. Each reserve is managed on a day-to-day basis by a lead state agency or university, with input from local partners. The mission of the reserves is to practice and promote coastal and estuarine stewardship through innovative research and education, using a system of protected areas.

screenshot of the System Wide Monitoring Program interface
System Wide Monitoring Program

In an effort to understand and track long-term changes in estuaries and coastal areas, the estuarine reserves established the System Wide Monitoring program (SWMP) in 1995. SWMP collects a variety of data, including water quality, weather conditions, and habitat changes.

paddling in the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Reserves protect and conserve 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitat, while also facilitating improved stewardship of coastal habitats outside of the reserve boundaries. Volunteers have been instrumental to the stewardship efforts of estuarine reserves.