Estuarine Biology

great egrets in an estuary

These resources focus on the different types of estuaries, how they interact with surrounding areas, what kinds of producers, consumers, and decomposers exist there, and the adaptations organisms have made to survive in these areas.

The plant and animal communities that live in estuaries are unique because their waters are brackish — a mixture of fresh water draining from the land and salty seawater. Many species have developed adaptations in order to live in estuarine environments. Estuaries also act like enormous filters and buffer zones for surrounding areas.

Types of Estuaries

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Estuaries are transitional areas that straddle the land and sea, freshwater and saltwater habitats. While every estuary is unique, they are strongly affected by tides and tidal cycles.

Estuary Food Webs

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Because of the diversity of plant and animal life in many estuaries, the food webs are complex.

Ecosystem Interactions

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Estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Many animal species rely on them for food and places to nest and breed. Humans also rely on estuaries for food, recreation, jobs and coastal protection.

Adaptations of Life

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Estuaries are home to species that have adapted to unique environmental conditions. In almost all estuaries, the salinity of the water changes constantly over the tidal cycle. To survive in these conditions, plants and animals living in estuaries have developed adaptations to respond quickly to drastic changes in salinity.

Chewin' in the Chesapeake
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