Each year on National Estuaries Day, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rededicates itself to preserving and protecting these important natural resources that benefit all Americans and works to encourage more people to learn about these vital, productive ecosystems. The public is invited to participate in one of the hundreds of activities planned around Estuaries Day by visiting their nearest National Estuarine Research Reserve to watch ospreys, herons or sea otters, paddle a kayak, or volunteer for local coastal cleanup events and water quality monitoring activities. Parents and teachers can also use this opportunity to encourage children to be environmental stewards by introducing them to outdoor activities, and learning more about estuaries. Information about Estuary Day events and activities can be found by visiting the www.estuaries.noaa.gov.
More than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas, including along the shores of estuaries. Did you know that the Hudson River is actually an estuary or that the Chesapeake Bay is the nation's largest estuary? Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water, such as bays, lagoons and sloughs, where freshwater from rivers mixes with salt water and also Great Lakes waters. These important coastal habitats are spawning grounds and nurseries for at least two-thirds of the nation's commercial fish and shellfish. Wetlands associated with estuaries buffer uplands from flooding. Estuaries also provide many recreational opportunities, such as swimming, boating, fishing and bird watching. In addition, healthy estuaries are a source of millions of jobs in the fishing, transportation and tourism industries. "Estuaries are special places along the coasts and in the heartland that benefit all Americans. It will take each of us to appreciate estuaries and keep them healthy and resilient," said Laurie McGilvray, division chief of NOAA's Estuarine Reserves Division.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 28 protected areas representing different biogeographic regions of the United States, from Wells, Maine to Katchemak Bay in Alaska. NOAA administers this program, through the Coastal Zone Management Act in partnership with coastal states and territories. Reserve staff work with local communities and regional groups to address natural resource management issues, such as non-point source pollution, habitat restoration and invasive species. Through integrated research, education, and resource stewardship, the reserves help communities better understand these vital habitats and develop strategies to manage these ongoing coastal resource challenges.
OCRM has released the Voluntary Step-by-Step Guide for Considering Potential Climate Change Effects on Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Projects, as part of NOAA’s multi-phased effort to more systematically consider climate change impacts in the implementation of programmatic activities including restoration, land acquisition, and facilities development. This new document addresses recommendations in the Programmatic Framework for Considering Climate Change Impacts in Coastal Habitat Restoration, Land Acquisition, and Facility Development Investments, developed and released by OCRM and NMFS’ Office of Habitat Conservation in 2010. The step-by-step guide provides a clear approach for coastal management partners to consider how climate impacts might affect conservation projects and how to incorporate climate change consideration into planning processes. Though the Guide focuses on the implementation of OCRM’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP), the methodology described has broad application for conservation planning and land acquisition in a changing climate.