Earn Your Starfish Badge
Now that we've identified our watersheds and understand how they work, let's travel a bit farther downstream to another part of our watershed called an estuary. In the next few lessons we'll learn the basics of an estuary - what it is, who lives there, and why it's important.
What is an estuary?
An estuary is a special place where the land meets the ocean. It's where fresh water from rivers and streams meets the salt water of the ocean. This part-salt, part-fresh water is called "brackish" and it's where Lucky's shell home is located! Salt marshes, shallow waters, tidal flats, and maritime forests are all part of an estuary and provide the foundation for a unique community of life. Watch this video to learn more about an estuary.
Did you know?
Estuaries are threatened by climate change, pollution, and habitat loss. Thousands of acres of estuary habitat, including salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangroves, are altered or destroyed every year. Some of the activities that cause this destruction include dredging, draining, bulldozing, and paving.
LET'S FIND OUT...
How are you connected to an estuary?
In the first lesson you learned how to locate your watershed. Are there any rivers near your watershed that might drain all the way to an estuary? There are more than 100 estuaries along the coast of the United States. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 30 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems.
Estuaries are important to the health of our oceans because they act as a filter for pollutants traveling downstream and are the last stop for pollution before entering the ocean. Not only do they filter our water, making it cleaner, they also provide protection from floods and storm surges from hurricanes for people who live inland. Estuaries act like sponges, soaking up the extra water when flooding occurs.
Can you think of two problems humans have created for estuaries? What are some ways you can protect your closest estuary? Write these down in your scientist notebook. Draw a picture of a mangrove tree or marsh grass.
Record these words and their definitions in your scientist notebook
Books to Explore
YOU DID IT!
You successfully completed level four by learning the basics of an estuary! Don't forget to add your newly earned badge to your achievement chart before getting started on the next level.
Now that you know what a watershed is and how to locate yours, let's dive a bit deeper and earn your next badge.