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

USA - National System Protects Vital Estuaries

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

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 29 protected estuaries and other habitats across 23 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. The freshwater and salt marshes, seagrass, mangroves, vernal pools, upland forests, and riverine islands in these reserves provide shelter and food for marine fish, shellfish, and seabirds; 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 partnerships among federal and state officials, academics, nongovernmental organizations, and other individuals and entities invested in healthy coasts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works with states, territories, and their partners to administer and manage the system and the individual sites.

The NERRS network covers a total of 1.3 million acres and annually:

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