What is an Estuary?
An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water formed where freshwater
from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the salty sea
water. Estuaries and the lands surrounding them are places of transition
from land to sea, and from fresh to salt water. Although influenced by
the tides, estuaries are protected from the full force of ocean waves,
winds, and storms by the reefs, barrier islands, or fingers of land, mudThe habitat for essential micro-organisms, is as important as water to the health of this planet. Edward S Deevey Jr,
or sand that define an estuary’s seaward boundary.
Conventionally, estuaries can be viewed as a marinerefers to sea water, to sediments deposited in sea water, or to animals that live in the sea, as opposed to fresh water. region
open to the sea, a middle region where salt and fresh waters mix, and an upper region or fluvialInvolving running water. Usually pertaining to stream processes.
region dominated by fresh waterWater that is relatively free of salts. but subjected to tidalRelating to or affected by tides.
action. Long ago, Crystal River/Kings Bay could be seen exactly as described. The velocityThe speed of movement of an object in one direction.
and volume of water issuing from the thirty springs feeding water into the river system kept intrusion by the salt water
back several miles from the town of Crystal River itself. Now, however, owing to reduced velocities and volumes of the
water flow, caused by drawing waters from the aquifer for our human needs, the dividing line
between salt and fresh waters has encroached as far as Kings Bay itself.
All estuarineThe region of a tidal mouth of a river areas are critical to protection of
essential fish and wildlife habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives.. Locally they are known to
be among the most productive in Florida. Specifically redfish, sea trout, snook, mullet, grouper, many speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level.
In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun.
of snapper, blue crabs, shrimp and scallops spend a significant part of their life in this coastal region. This area is
well known as a prime location for Tarpon and Cobia fishing. Recreational scallop seasons opened in 2002 for the first
time in about 10 years.
Citrus County’s estuaries are unique in that the estuaries are fed by first magnitude springs. This region also
has the best beds of seagrassesFlowering plants that grow and reproduce under water like eelgrass or a similar grass-like plant that grows near the sea. in Florida. Our coast has
the unusual characteristic of being tropical at the southern end and non-tropical at the northern section. This
transitional zone offers unusual research opportunities and undoubtedly contributes to the unusually large number of
fish that inhabit the area.
Estuaries come in all shapes and sizes and go by many different names, often known as bays, lagoons, harbors, inlets,
or sounds. (Note not all water bodies by those names are necessarily estuaries. The defining feature of an estuary is
the mixing of fresh and salt water, not the name.)
The tidalRelating to or affected by tides., sheltered waters of estuaries support unique
communities of plants and animals, specially adaptedTo be accustomed to the natural factors that are in a given area and to be able to survive these factors, being either positive or negative. for life
at the margin of the sea. Estuarine environments are among the most productive on earth, creating more organic
matter each year than comparably-sized areas of forest, grassland, or agricultural land. Many different habitatThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives.
types are found in and around estuaries, including shallow open waters, freshwater and salt marshes, sandy beaches, mudThe habitat for essential micro-organisms, is as important as water to the health of this planet. Edward S Deevey Jr and sand flats, rocky shores,
oyster reefs, mangroveTreed wetlands located on the coastlines in warm tropical climates. forests, river deltas, tidal pools,
seagrass and kelpA very large brown seaweed that typically has a long, tough stalk with a broad frond divided into strips. [Laminaria and other genera, family Laminariaceae.] beds, and wooded swamps.
- Relating to an organism.
- Derived from an organism.
The productivity and variety of estuarineThe region of a tidal mouth of a river habitatsThe place or set of environmental conditions in which a particular organism lives.
foster a wonderful abundance and diversity of wildlife. Shore birds, fish, crabs and lobsters, marine mammals, clams and
other shellfish, marine worms, sea birds, and reptiles are just some of the animals that make their homes in and around
estuaries. These animals are linked to one another and to an assortment of specialized plants and microscopicToo small for human eyesight without employing a microscope
organisms through complex food websThe non-linear relationship between food items which eat each other and other interactions.
Estuaries are places where rivers meet the sea. They are fascinating and beautiful ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live.
distinct from all other places on earth.
Why are Estuaries Important?
Estuaries are critical for the survival of many speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level.
In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun..
Tens of thousands of species of birds, mammalsGroup of warm blooded vertebrate animals. Common characteristics found in these organisms include: hair, milk secretion, diaphragm for respiration, lower jaw composed of a single pair of bones, middle ear containing three bones, and presence of only a left systemic arch., fish, and other
wildlife depend on estuarine habitats as places to live, feed, and reproduce. Estuaries provide ideal spots for
migratory birds to rest and refuel during their journeys. And many species of fish and shellfish rely on the sheltered
waters of estuaries as protected places to spawn, giving them the nickname "nurseries of the sea." Hundreds of
marine organisms, including most commercially valuable fish species, depend on estuaries at some point during their
Besides serving as important habitat for wildlife, the wetlands that fringe many estuaries
also perform other valuable services. Water draining from the uplands carries sedimentsSolid material that has been or is being eroded, transported, and deposited. Transport can be due to fluvial, marine, glacial or aeolian agents.,
nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce., and other pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. .
As the water flows through fresh and salt marshes, much of
the sediments and pollutants are filtered out. This filtration process creates cleaner and clearer water, which benefits
both people and marine life. Wetland plants and soils also act as a natural buffer between the land and ocean, absorbing
flood waters and dissipating storm surgesWind induced build up of waves and water in a storm giving rise to higher than usual tide on reaching shore. This protects
upland organisms as well as valuable real estate from storm and flood damage. Salt marsh grasses and other estuarineThe region of a tidal mouth of a river
plants also help prevent erosionTo wear away by the action of water, wind, or glacial ice. Removal of vegetation and trees can increase erosion of topsoil. and stabilizeTo maintain an non-fluctuating level of something; to become stable, or make something stable
Among the cultural benefits of estuaries are recreation, scientific knowledge, education, and aesthetic values.
Boating, fishing, swimming, surfing, and bird watching are just a few of the numerous recreational activities people
enjoy in estuaries. Estuaries are often the cultural centers of coastal communities, serving as the focal points for
local commerce, recreation, celebrations, customs, and traditions. As transition zones between land and water, estuaries
are invaluable laboratories for scientists and students, providing countless lessons in biology, geology, chemistry,
physics, history, and social issues. Estuaries also provide a great deal of aesthetic enjoyment for the people who live,
work, or recreate in and around them.
Finally, the tangiblePerceptible by touch and direct economic benefits of
estuaries should not be overlooked. Tourism, fisheries, and other commercial activities thrive on the wealth of natural
resources estuaries supply. The protected coastal waters of estuaries also support important public infrastructureThe basic physical and organizational structures (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.,
serving as harbors and ports vital for shipping, transportation, and industry. Some attempts have been made to measure
certain aspects of the economic activity that depends on America’s estuaries and other coastal waters:
Estuaries provide habitat for more than 75% of America’s commercial fish catch, and for 80-90% of the
recreational fish catch. Estuarine-dependent fisheries are among the most valuable within regions and across the nation,
worth more than $1.9 billion in 1990, excluding Alaska.
Nationwide, commercial and recreational fishing, boating, tourism, and other coastal industries provide more than 28
million jobs. Commercial shipping alone employed more than 50,000 people as of January, 1997.
There are 25,500 recreational facilities along the U.S. coasts - almost 44,000 square miles of outdoor public
recreation areas. The average American spends 10 recreational days on the coast each year. In 1993 more than 180 million
Americans visited ocean and bay beaches - nearly 70% of the U.S. population. Coastal recreation and tourism generate $8
to $12 billion annually.
In just one estuarine system - Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays - commercial and recreational fishing generate about
$240 million per year. In that same estuary, tourism and beach-going generate $1.5 billion per year, and shipping and
marinas generate $1.86 billion per year.
In short, estuaries provide us with a whole suite of resources, benefits, and services. Some of these can be measured in
dollars and cents, others can not. Estuaries are an irreplaceable natural resource that must be managed carefully for
the mutual benefit of all who enjoy and depend on them.
Why Protect Estuaries?
The economy of many coastal areas is based primarily on the natural beauty and bounty of estuaries. When those natural
resources are imperiled, so too are the livelihoods of the many people who live and work there. Around half the U.S.
Population, some 110 million Americans, now live in coastal areas, including the shores of estuaries. Coastal counties
are growing three times faster than counties elsewhere in the nation.
Unfortunately, this increasing concentration of people is upsetting the natural balance of estuarineThe region of a tidal mouth of a river
ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live. and threatening their integrity. Channels have
been dredged, marshes and tidal flats filled, waters polluted, and shorelines reconstructed to accommodate human housing,
transportation, and agriculture needs. Stresses caused by overuse of resources and unchecked land use practices have
resulted in unsafe drinking water, closing beaches and shellfish beds, harmful algal bloomsExplosive reproduction of algae causing harm by release of toxins, unproductive fisheries, loss of fish and wildlife habitat and, kills, and a host of other human health
and natural resource problems.
As our population grows, the demands imposed on our natural resources increase. So too does the importance of
protecting these resources for all their natural, economic, and aesthetic values. It is the mission of the National Estuary ProgramA non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible stewardship and a common vision for the preservation and restoration of our nation’s bays and estuaries. Established in 1987 by amendments to the Clean Water Act. (NEP) to restore and protect America’s nationally significant estuaries. Through its approach
of inclusive, community-based planning and action on the watershed level, the NEP is an important initiative in
conserving our estuarine resources, and an effective model for the protection and management of other coastal areas.
The Clean Water Act of 1987 established the National Estuary Program (NEP) to assist significant estuaries that are
threatened by pollution, land developments or overuse. The NEP supports the development of Comprehensive Management
Plans to restore and protect these important areas. There are currently 28 estuaries in the program including Tampa Bay,
The Indian River Lagoon and Charlotte Harbor but excluding any of those in Citrus County. Eeach NEP is a "living
laboratory" in which scientists and educators conduct research and communicate results with local communities and
regional groups to address natural resource management issues, such as pollution, habitat restoration and invasive speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level.
In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun..
If extended through Levy and Hernando County, the protected coastal area could be expanded by another 80,000 to 100,000
Through research and education, a Coastal Springs NEP will help our county and local communities develop strategies
to deal successfully with our coastal resource issues.