What is the Ecological Role of an Estuary?

To most people, an estuary (es-chew-airy) is a place where fresh water meets the sea. In its broader meaning, an estuary is that part of the mouth of a stream in which the water level is influenced by the lake or sea into which the stream flows. The Great Lakes have some estuaries.

Old Woman Creek on Lake Erie has an estuary that has been set aside by the state and federal governments as a “state nature preserve” and “national estuarine research reserve.” The St. Louis River Estuary on Lake Superior is currently listed as an “Area of Concern”by the EPA and is undergoing remediation for pollution. Why should the government bother to preserve an estuary such as Old Woman Creek or the St. Louis River Estuary?

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