Estuaries, Pacific Northwest
An estuary is a body of water formed where rivers & streams mix with the salt water as they flow into the ocean. Estuaries and the areas surrounding them, are places of wonder and beauty – places of peace and tranquility. There is protection from ocean waves, winds, & storms by the reefs, barrier islands, or fingers of land, mud, or sand that surround them.
They provide places for recreational activities, bird watching, and wildlife viewing and study. They are a natural resource that must be managed with careful consideration, for the mutual benefit of all who enjoy and depend on them. They benefit local economies, by boosting tourism, as many people come to view area birds & wildlife.
Countless species of birds, mammals, fish, and other wildlife depend on estuarine habitats as places to live, feed, & reproduce. Many marine species depend on these places at some stage of their development. Numerous species of fish rely on the sheltered waters of estuaries as protected spawning places. Because they are biologically productive, estuaries provide ideal areas for migratory birds to rest & feed during their long migrations.
They also perform other valuable services. Water flowing from upstream areas, carries sediments, nutrients & pollutants to estuaries. As the water flows through wetlands such as swamps and salt marshes, much of the sediments and pollutants are filtered out. This natural filtration process creates cleaner & clearer water, which benefits humans as well as marine life.