Estuarine ecosystems are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet. Marine habitats are valued at providing an estimated US14$ trillion worth of ecosystem goods and services annually, or 43% of the global total (Costanza et al. 1997). Scientific evidence in the face of anthropogenic global change is showing many of these marine ecosystems are threatened (IPCC 2001).
Anthropogenic, or human, produced changes occurring upstream of estuaries have overwhelming consequences for estuarine systems as well as the social and economic structures that depend on them. Construction projects, dams, and diversions can remove freshwater from streams and rivers before it reaches estuarine systems. Freshwater inflow carries nutrients and sediments and provides low-salinity habitats for estuarine resources (Montagna et al. 2013). Changes within the dynamic estuarine ecosystems caused by changing inflows are complex. Implications for management considerations will require the compilation and interpretation of existing experimental results at the hydrological, ecological condition, and ecological resources levels.
Freshwater inflows are the most important component of estuarine health. Freshwater Inflow is a web-based tool created to support coastal management decisions regarding freshwater inflow considerations to bays and estuaries by providing the best available science-based information using the Texas Coast estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico as the primary study area. This tool provides information on freshwater inflow, estuarine ecosystems, how estuaries are effected by changing inflows, and management implications.
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