2011 Current Environmental Issue

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2011 Current Environmental Issue

Salt and Fresh Water Estuaries

Salt water estuaries are semi-enclosed areas where sea water and freshwater mix. Freshwater estuaries are regions where lake and river waters mix. Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems on earth and have been considered by some to be second only to the rainforests in productivity. They also are important as a first line of defence against the destructive power of the oceans caused by hurricanes, tropical storms, strong gales, high tides, and other natural disturbances. New Brunswick boarders the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence which has been called one large estuary. Many of the coastal estuaries in New Brunswick are sheltered by sand dunes, bays, harbours, and salt marshes. These systems are driven mainly by fresh water runoff and tidal influences of the saltwater resulting in rich and diverse aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

As an example, one of the largest estuarine areas in Eastern Canada is the Tantramar Salt Marshes, located adjacent to the 2011 Canon Envirothon base in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. Estuaries in New Brunswick as in other parts of North America are under pressure for habitation, industrial uses, and recreation. Since Acadian settlers arrived from France in the mid 1500's, the Tantramar marshes and estuaries have been dyked, drained for farming and even mined for salt. Even prior to this the Mi'Kmaq First Nations used these lands for bird hunting, shellfish gathering and fishing, sometimes modifying streams and drainages to facilitate their gathering.

Despite these changes, these estuarine marshlands still provide valuable ecosystem functions such as habitat for wildlife, a place for hundreds of marine organisms to spawn, filter sediments and pollutants, and acting as a buffer between land and ocean by absorbing floodwaters and dissipating storm surges.

Resources

Material for Estuaries (pdf)

Freshwater Estuaries Q and A

Additional information about Estuaries can be found at Estuaries.gov. However, teams should not consider this website to be an official resource for the 2011 Canon Envirothon.