Coasts and Estuaries

  • Created by: Cara
  • Created on: 21-05-12 21:21

Coasts and estuaries are dynamic areas and are great economic and environmental importance. Coastal areas are used for fishing, aquaculture, mineral extraction, industrial development, tourism and recreation. They are also important to protect the land from the sea. An estuary is a partially enclosed area of water on the coast where salt water mixes with fresh water. The movement of tides causes coastal areas and estuaries to be either under water or exposed to the air at different times of the day. These characteristics create an environment which is different from the fresh & salt water habitats. These areas are known as transitional waters.  
Coastlines next to open oceans often have stable climates due to the high heat capacity of the seawater, which resits temperature changes, especially if the coast has a consistent ocean current. For example, Britain has a temperature maritime climate, which is warmer than a lot of areas at the same latitude due to the Gulf Stream (North Atlantic Drift) which brings warm water from the Caribbean Sea. The coastline of the UK is over 11,000 miles long and has a wide range of habitats, there are over, 1,000 islands and many cliffs where birds can often nest on the ground with no threat from mammal predators.
Estuaries were created due to a rise in sea level in medieval times, which flooded river valleys near the coast and produced a large number of different types, depending on the shape of the valley. Estuaries a very biologically productive because of the dead organic matter carried downstream by rivers or brought in by tides. Shallow, warm conditions allow rapid growth of algae.
Coast and estuaries are both important for many reasons, for example their ecosystems provide many other important ecological functions like, acting as filters for pollutants and providing protection from flooding. They also have economic importance because of tourist destinations and shipping routes. Millions visit the coast each year, to boat, swim, bird watch and also fish. Most goods imported and exported in the UK are transported by sea.
However because of these reasons they’re also under threat, tourist accommodation, services and marinas are all built on the coastal margin, which increase the area of hard engineering and interfering with natural processes or erosion and deposition. Boating will cause more emissions to be released and also the problem of oil and fuel spills, the spillage of biocides. Also boats anchoring causes erosion and damage to underwater vegetation; few boats in the UK have holding tanks, thus meaning sewage and wastewater is just discharged directly overboard. Fishing can lead to loss of tackle, lines and nets which frequently kill marine life. In the UK 97% of our goods are important so shipping is economically vital. Dredging of the sea bottom in key areas is conducted on a regular basis in order to maintain shipping channels, this produces disturbance at both the dredged


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