Exploring Estuaries: A children’s program from the EPA

In Brevard County, Florida, many of us know about the importance of estuaries.

They are special places where freshwater rivers and streams flow into the ocean, mixing with the seawater. A wide variety of birds, fish, and other wildlife make estuaries their home. People also live, fish, swim, and enjoy nature in estuaries and the lands surrounding them.

The EPA provides a web site that explores estuary environments, including learning about some of the plants and animals that live there.

Try some of the games. Learn how to help protect these natural treasures.

You’ll also learn how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working to restore and protect estuaries through the National Estuary Program.

Teacher and Student Resources can be found here: Oceans and Coasts for Children, Students and Teachers
SOURCE: EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Why are Estuaries like our Indian River Lagoon Important?

Healthy estuaries help protect water quality by filtering out pollution. Water carries sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants as it makes its way to our estuaries. As the water flows through wetlands such as swamps and salt marshes, many of the sediments and pollutants are filtered out. It’s a filtration process that creates cleaner water. Wetland plants and soils act as natural buffers between the land and ocean, absorbing flood waters and dissipating storm surges to help protect upland habitat as well as valuable real estate from storm and flood damage. Salt marsh grasses and other estuarine plants also help prevent erosion and stabilize shorelines.

Read more about why estuaries are so important

KIDS FACT: Estuaries are home to animals that live in or near water that is part fresh and part salty, including horseshoe crabs, ospreys and manatees and hundreds of fish and shellfish* such as scallops, shrimp, and salmon also live in estuaries at some point in their life.

*Shellfish. An animal such as a mollusk (clams, oysters, and snails) or crustacean (crabs and shrimp) that have a shell or shell-like external skeleton.




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a glossary of terms to get you totally articulate about estuaries, like our Indian River Lagoon. Start here and join the conversation about preserving our area’s natural resources.

Algae blooms. Occurs when algae grows very fast because too many nutrients enter the water. Algae blooms color the water a deep red-brown.

Barrier island. Refers to a long, narrow island running parallel to the mainland, built up by waves and currents and protecting the coast from erosion by surf and tidal surges.

Hypoxia. A condition where there isn’t enough oxygen in the water. This forces fish to either swim away or die and can suffocate plants living in the water. Hypoxia occurs when there are too many nutrients in the water.

Endangered species. A plant or animal that is in immediate danger of becoming extinct and needs protection to survive.

Threatened species. A plant or animal that is likely to become endangered if not protected.

Reefs. Skeleton-like ecosystems made up of colonies of limestone-producing, living animals. Coral reefs tell us about water quality and the health of an estuary.

Learn more.