Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.

Photograph Friday: Why We Heart Estuaries

Photograph Friday: Why We Heart Estuaries

Brown pelicans are often found fishing in the Morro Bay estuary.

 

Every year around Valentine’s Day, the Morro Bay National Estuary Program joins in I Heart Estuaries Week. During this time, we celebrate and raise awareness of the essential contributions that estuaries make to the health of our planet and to our quality of life. In that spirit, this Photograph Friday post illustrates some of the reasons why we should protect, conserve, and restore these special places where saltwater and freshwater mix.

Estuaries provide clean water, abundant wildlife, natural beauty, recreation, and historic and cultural assets. In addition to their intrinsic value, these elements also contribute to the local economy and boost property values.

Estuary channels

From the top of Black Hill, you can see many of the habitat types–from oak trees, to the salt marsh, to the dunes–that make the estuary and watershed such perfect places for wildlife to thrive.

Protecting and restoring habitat for fish also protects and enhances coastal communities’ resilience in the face of extreme weather. Coastal wetlands provide storm protection valued at $23.2 billion per year! As climate change continues to produce increasingly intense storms, this protection will be even more vital.

In the heavy rains of March 2018, the willows and other plants in the restored flood plain at Twin Bridges along with the wide expanse of salt marsh at the waters edge gave the rushing runoff a place to slow down and sink in. Without these natural spaces, flood waters continue on toward the bay in full force and the possibility of increased erosion and damage to infrastructure rises.

In the heavy rains of March 2018, the willows and other plants in the restored flood plain at Twin Bridges along with the wide expanse of salt marsh at the waters edge gave the rushing runoff a place to slow down and sink in. Without these natural spaces, flood waters continue on toward the bay in full force and the possibility of increased erosion and damage to infrastructure rises.

Estuaries provide habitat for about 68% of the U.S. commercial fish catch and 80% of recreational catch.

Pennington Creek, with healthy bug scores and the potential for trout sightings and a variety of habitat features is always one of our favorite surveys to complete.

Pennington Creek boats clean water and temperatures cold enough for steelhead trout to thrive. From these creeks, steelhead make their way out to the ocean through the estuary where many other fish, including commercially fished species like halibut, spend a portion of their lives. 

Estuaries are absolutely essential for supporting a diversity of native wildlife. More than 200 species of birds can be seen on, in, above, and around the Morro Bay estuary on a given day. A wide variety of sensitive and threatened species such as red-legged frogs and peregrine falcons thrive here. Our estuary, the surrounding lands, and the creeks that drain to it are also home to species that are endemic to this area–meaning that they are found here, but nowhere else in the world.

Brown pelicans are often found fishing in the Morro Bay estuary.

Brown pelicans are often found fishing in the Morro Bay estuary. They are one of the more than 200 species of birds that depend on the estuary for food.

Join us February 12 through 14 to celebrate estuaries on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Share what you love about our essential estuaries, share your photographs, and use #iheartestuaries


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