What types of plants and animals live in an estuary?

Estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, so there is a great diversity of animals and plants that live there.

Birds in Elkhorn Slough Reserve

A flock of birds in the water at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve in California.

Estuaries—areas where fresh and saltwater mix—are made up of many different types of habitats. These habitats can include oyster reefs, coral reefs, rocky shores, submerged aquatic vegetation, marshes, and mangroves. There are also different animals that live in each of these different habitats. Fish, shellfish, and migratory birds are just a few of the animals that can live in an estuary.

The Chesapeake Bay, as one example, includes several different habitats. There are oyster reefs where oysters, mud crabs, and small fish may be found. Also in the Chesapeake Bay, there is submerged aquatic vegetation where seahorses, blue crabs, and other fish live. Finally, there is open water where sea turtles or rays can be found.

Otter Cam!

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Otter Cam

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in California is home to a population of more than 100 sea otters. See for yourself! Visit Elkhorn Slough's real-time Otter Cam.

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Last updated: 06/25/18
Author: NOAA
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