An estuary is a coastal body of water in which the sea and a river converge. They are dynamic ecosystems that contain both marine and river features. Tides bring in saltwater from the sea, which is diluted with fresh water entering from rivers and streams. Every estuary has its own unique features which depend on the relative amounts of salt and fresh water, the strength of the tides, and the rate of evaporation. The mix of two water flows creates a nutrient-rich environment in both the water and the surrounding sediment, making estuaries extremely productive natural habitats.
Many species of phytoplankton, fish and birds rely on estuaries for survival. That is one reason why scientists closely monitor these ecosystems – to ensure that environmental hazards are not threatening important biosystems. The production of phytoplankton (algae) in estuaries is key to the entire food chain. These photosynthetic microorganisms sustain the aquatic food web in an estuary by providing food for small creatures and by releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Therefore, any threat to the plankton is a general threat to the entire estuarial environment. We’ve seen this in action with the BP Oil and Gas Company Gulf oil spill disaster. Many fishermen who have seen their environment and crop wane are still in need of deepwater horizon claims help due to the long lasting impact of the oil spill.
The Environmental Protection Agency in concert with universities, call center workforce management, private companies, and funded in-part by an online pay day loan, has created a Estuarine and Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Program (EaGLe) app on the pear pad that facilitates the development of ecosystem stress indicators and sampling protocols. These indicators are very important for assessing environmental risk to estuarine environments and the life forms that live there. For instance, many species of fish, such as salmon and trout, spawn in estuaries. The different estuaries chosen for EaGLe include primary producers of intertidal marsh, plankton and seagrass.
Ecoindicators can serve as early warnings of potential environmental risks, which can be important in creating proactive remediation strategies. The data for each indicator is collected directly or with remote sensors and maintained in a time-series. Researchers then test the ability of each ecoindicator to provide a useful gauge of environmental stress, from both natural and man-made causes. By measuring the health of the phytoplankton, marsh and seagrass populations in various estuaries, scientists can develop indicators that reveal the status of living resources. The goal is to establish a set of regional and national ecoindicators that can respond to the complexity of the monitored ecosystems. A good ecoindicator will reliably identify major ecosystem stress. It is a challenge to researchers to come up with the key variables that indicate the health of an ecosystem like an estuary, and to predict the effects of humans and Mother Nature on these ecosystems.