Estuaries are one of the most productive ecosystems and where freshwater and saltwater meet.
Estuaries and the adjacent land are also a place of transition from land to ocean and in Georgia this transition provides many habitats including open water, freshwater and salt marshes, swamps, sandy beaches, mud and sand flats, oyster reefs and sounds.
The waters and habitats found in the estuaries are sheltered from the open ocean by barrier islands and provide essential habitat for numerouse birds, crustacean, fish, mammals and other wildlife species to live, feed and reproduce and are often called "the nusery of the sea." The plants found in the freshwater and salt marsh wetlands not only provide habitat, but help filter and clean the water draining from the uplands which carry sediments, nutrients and other pollutants. These wetlands act as natural barries between the land and ocean and protect the upland from erosion, flood waters and storm surges.
Estuaries are important recreationaly and commercially. They provide ares for recreational activies such as photography, fishing and kayaking and commercial activies such as tourism, fisheries and ports for shipping and transportation. The University of Georgia Marine Extension Service conducts research along Georgia's 100 miles of coastline, identifying impacts to fresh and saltwater wetlands.