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An estuary is a partially enclosed, coastal water body where freshwater from rivers and streams mixes with salt water from the ocean. Estuaries, and their surrounding lands, are places of transition from land to sea. Although influenced by the tides, they are protected from the full force of ocean waves, winds and storms by land forms such as barrier islands or peninsulas. 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. The sheltered waters of estuaries also support unique communities of plants and animals specially adapted for life at the margin of the sea. Many different habitat types are found in and around estuaries, including shallow open waters, freshwater and saltwater marshes, swamps, sandy beaches, mud and sand flats, rocky shores, oyster reefs, mangrove forests, river deltas, tidal pools and seagrass beds. Top of Page Why are Estuaries Important? a had holding softshell clams Photo Credit: Casco Bay Estuary Partnership Estuaries provide us with a suite of resources, benefits and services. Some of these can be measured in dollars and cents, while others cannot. Estuaries provide places for recreational activities, scientific study and aesthetic enjoyment. Estuaries are an irreplaceable natural resource that must be managed carefully for the mutual benefit of all who enjoy and depend on them. Below are additional ways in which estuaries are important ):


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