Estuaries are known for their incredible biodiversity and as a result there is a wide variety of plants and animals that call this area home. The soil in an estuary is incredible fertile which is great for plant life. However, due to the salinity of the water not every type of plant is suited for this environment. As with the wide range of animal life that can be found there are many types of plants as well. From grasses to trees these environments have it all.
Cattails are very common in bodies of water and estuaries are no exception. These plants provide protection for birds, reptiles, and frogs. Requiring fresh water to survive this plant is found in areas that have very little salinity. They commonly grow between three and ten foot tall. Birds can often be seen around these areas in search of food. Cattails grow in shallow flooded areas and they tend to be the dominant plant in areas they are found. Their think tall patches choke out other plants in the area. Offering great protection for fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals, many species can be found around them.
Eelgrass can grow up to four feet. This grass is critical provides critical habitat and food for crabs, Scallops, as well as fish. Fish also use it to spawn as it offers valuable protection from predators. Once widely distributed throughout estuaries along the Atlantic much has since been destroyed. Restoration projects along the East coast are underway to restore this critical plant. Loss of this plant is reducing spawning grounds for many species of fish.
Sea grasses are plants similar to grass that grow below the water’s surface. These plants are a critical food source for fish and invertebrates. They provide great spawning grounds and many species lay their eggs in these grassy patches. These grasses also protect land by weakening the waters currents and that can help reduce the erosion effect of land. Sea grass is used in hatcheries to support fish population providing great economic benefit to states along the coast. These grasses lack strong roots to ground them. Instead much of their movement and spreading are the result of subtle ocean currents.
Salt marsh plants grow in regions of estuaries that have a high salinity content where many others plants could not. There are many grasses, sedges, and rushes that call these regions home. Critically important to many species of fish, plants in this region provide food, protection, and spawning grounds critical for their survival. These plants when they die break down creating food for microorganism and other marine animals. Without plants that were capable of growing in these regions many species of fish would have to spawn in the open ocean which is more dangerous for them and their offspring. Along the edges of these bodies of water and trees and shrubs are common. Trees and shrubs and home to many small animals and birds.
There are many other plants that grow in estuaries and the region of the world they are found in will have different species. All have a similar function. They provide critical habitat, food, and spawning grounds for thousands of species. Estuaries are incredibly diverse in plant life as well as animals. These plants help protect coastal areas as well by slowing waters force and help prevent erosion. Much of the water that enters the underground systems get filtered through wetlands and plants are an important part of that process. The adaptation of plants to the influx of sea and salt water has helped make estuaries one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet critical to both humans and animals.