Bays and Estuaries

By: Bailey Lewis, Madison McGuire, and Cole Palmer

How do bays differ from estuaries?

Bays and estuaries are similar in that they are both partially enclosed bodies of water. They are different in that estuaries may occur where there are no bays and bays are open directly to the ocean.

Why is freshwater inflow important in bays and estuaries?

Texas’ estuaries need higher freshwater inflows during late spring and early summer. Along with freshwater, the inflows bring nutrients and sediments that support fish, wildlife, invertebrates, plankton, and wetland plants.

What is a hypersaline bay?

A hypersaline bay is a bay where salinity frequently exceeds that of seawater.

What kind of plants are there in coastal wetlands?

As salinity increases, seagrasses replace the freshwater grasses as cover and places for animals to feed. Other plants in estuaries have special adaptations to survive in saturated and salty soils and water such as Spartina and salicornia.

How do closely related species adapt differently to life in bays and estuaries?

Because conditions may be very different in different bays, closely related species can have very different adaptations to survive.

What are tides? How can tides differ from place to place in a bay, and between different bays?

Tides are the rise and fall of sea level produced by the combined gravitational attraction of the moon, sun, and Earth on our oceans.

Tides differ from place to place because gravitational forces that cause tides are constantly changing and have varying effect depending on where you are located, and because of differences in the size and shapes of bays and inlets, and local wind and weather patterns.

Why would you go to the Texas coast to bird watch? Why is the Texas coast important to a bird that nests in Canada or Venezuela?

Coastal barrier islands and wetlands provide habitat and protection from storms for millions of migrating birds from throughout the western hemisphere, which provide rich opportunities for observation of a wide variety of birds. Texas is important because it is the winter home for many species that nest in northern areas.

How can you help maintain healthy coastal ecosystems in Texas?

No matter where we live in the state, what we do affects the coastal waters. So if we conserve and maintain the quality of water in our area we are also helping conserve and maintain healthy coastal ecosystems.


-Barrier Island: a long narrow island lying parallel and close to the mainland, protecting the mainland from erosion and storms.

-Bays: a broad inlet of the sea where the land curves inward.

-Estuaries: the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream.

-Hypersaline: excessive salt or saline content.

-Inflows: something that flows in.

-Migratory: relating to animal migration.

-Tides: the rising and falling of the sea, due to attraction of the moon and sun.