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The Estuarine EcosystemEcology, Threats and Management$
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Donald S. McLusky and Michael Elliott

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198525080

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198525080.001.0001

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The estuarine environment

The estuarine environment

(p.1) Chapter 1 The estuarine environment
The Estuarine Ecosystem

Donald S. McLusky

Michael Elliott

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the physical and chemical features which mould the estuarine environment. An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows in to the oceans, mixing with the seawater. Estuaries and the lands surrounding them are places of transition from land to sea, and from fresh to salt water. Although influenced by tides, estuaries are protected from the full force of the ocean waves, winds, and storms by reefs, barrier islands, or fingers of land, mud and sand that define an estuary's coastal boundary. Estuaries come in all shapes and sizes, and can be called many different names: bays, lagoons, harbours, inlets or sounds. When considering any estuarine habitat worldwide, there are many generalizations that can be perceived; for example, common features being the gradient of conditions from the open sea into the sheltered estuary, and on to the freshwater river. Along this gradient there are clear changes in salinity, ranging from full strength seawater, decreasing to fresh water. Associated changes in sedimentary conditions, from coarse sediment (sand or gravel) out with the estuaries, to fine sediments (muds) within the estuaries, are invariably found.

Keywords:   estuarine circulation, estuarine sediments, salinity, nutrients, estuarine zones, brackish seas, coastal lagoons

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