National System Protects Vital Estuaries

Resources about programs and research to help conserve coastal habitat and sustain communities

National System Protects Vital Estuaries
NERRS
Scientists take water samples at the Old Woman Creek NERRS site in Huron, Ohio.
Gene Wright/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of protected estuaries and other habitats in coastal and Great Lakes states and territories. Estuaries are vibrant but vulnerable areas where freshwater flowing from rivers and streams mixes with saltwater from the ocean. Although the Great Lakes are exclusively freshwater, their coasts share many characteristics of estuary ecosystems.

The freshwater and salt marshes, seagrass, mangroves, vernal pools, upland forests, and riverine islands in these reserves provide shelter and food for fish, shellfish, and birds; buffer developed areas from storms and sea level rise; define coastal communities; and support recreation and resource-based economies.

Created by Congress in the early 1970s as part of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), the NERRS supports research and stewardship of U.S. estuaries and strong collaboration among federal and state officials, academics, nongovernmental organizations, and other individuals and entities invested in healthy coasts. Each reserve is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which provides funding, national guidance, and technical assistance, and a state- or territorial-based entity, such as an agency or university, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of the site, with input from the local community.

The CZMA guidelines call for at least one reserve in each of 29 distinct biogeographical subregions. Pew is working with scientists, allied organizations, and national, state, and local officials to strategically expand the network.

Silberreiher
Silberreiher
Article

Louisiana's First National Estuarine Research Reserve

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Article

A portion of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Coastal Basin, an area rich in plant and wildlife biodiversity and the site of two actively growing deltas, could soon gain federal designation as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).

American alligator
American alligator
Article

Louisiana Seeks to Stem Coastal Wetlands Declines

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Article

Despite having the fifth-longest coastline in the U.S. and the country’s largest area of coastal wetlands, Louisiana is the only coastal state without a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). Officials there are now beginning the extensive process to change that.

A boat floating in an estuary with a flock of birds flying overhead
A boat floating in an estuary with a flock of birds flying overhead
Trust Magazine

Where Rivers Meet the Sea

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Trust Magazine

A grand osprey nest sits atop a wooden post rising above golden switch grass at the mouth of the Connecticut River, right where it pours into Long Island Sound. The nest is one of many that the majestic fish-eating raptors use as a home base—and a perch to spy their next meal.

A great white egret flying with wings spread wide over the water.
A great white egret flying with wings spread wide over the water.
Article

Connecticut Gains National Estuarine Research Reserve

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Article

Connecticut today successfully concluded a decades-long quest when the U.S. Department of Commerce, on the recommendation of the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), designated the country’s 30th National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) within the state’s borders.

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