Now more than ever, we must work together to safeguard a bright future for estuaries and the coastal communities that depend on them
Found where freshwater meets the ocean, estuaries provide invaluable habitat for wildlife. Their tidal, nutrient-rich waters serve as fish nurseries, seasonal stopovers for migrating birds, and feeding and breeding grounds for thousands of species from oysters to orcas. Estuaries also support a diverse array of plants including mangroves and seagrasses.
Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in an estuary region. These unique ecosystems—which include wetlands, sandy beaches, reefs, mangrove forests, and mud flats—protect coastal communities by sheltering them from storms and floods, stabilizing shorelines, preventing erosion, filtering water and improving water quality, and storing drinking water. Coastal wetlands also capture and store atmospheric carbon 10 times faster than mature tropical forests.
Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems on earth. Millions of Americans and over 600 commercial fish species rely on estuaries for food and clean water. And yet, tens of thousands of acres of this wetland habitat is lost each year. Today, estuaries face threats from sea level rise, increasing water temperatures, ocean acidification, river and stream fragmentation, pollution, harmful algal blooms and bacterial imbalances, invasive species, storms and flooding, aging infrastructure, and more.