Importance of Estuaries


There are over 650 coastal communities in the United States and more than 120 million people live near or at the coast.

Estuaries are delicate ecosystems that serve as natural filters for runoff, and habitat for many species of birds, fish, and invertebrates. They are home to unique plants and animals that have adapted to the brackish water that develops where fresh and salt-water systems come together. Humans also rely on estuaries for food, recreation, jobs and coastal protection. These ecosystems are among the most productive in the world and 22 of the world’s largest cities are located in estuaries. Negative consequences of coastal and urban development has impacted many estuarine ecosystems.

Here are some interesting facts about estuaries:

  • They act like buffers, protecting lands from crashing waves and storms.
  • They help prevent soil erosion.
  • They soak up excess flood water and tidal surges.
  • They are important feeding and/or nursery habitat for commercially and ecologically important fish and invertebrates, and migrating birds.

Nearly 75% of all of the fish and shellfish harvested come from the rich resources found in coastal estuaries.