An estuary is located where the rivers meet the sea-where salt and fresh water mix to form brackish water. Technically, “an estuary is a partially enclosed body of water where saltwater from the sea mixes with the freshwater from rivers, streams and creeks. These areas of transition between the land and the sea are tidally driven, like the sea, but sheltered from the full force of ocean wind and waves, more like a river. Estuaries are generally enclosed in part by the coastline, marshes and wetlands: the seaward border may be barrier islands, reefs and sand or mud flats.” Estuaries occur along the edges of the Earth’s one big ocean. To learn more about estuaries, visit our Estuaries 101 Web page.
The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GNDNERR) is a marine protected area located in extreme southeastern Mississippi in Jackson County near the small community of Pecan (see map). The GNDNERR is comprised of approximately 18,000 acres, found chiefly within the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the Grand Bay Savanna Coastal Preserve. This reserve contains a variety of wetland habitats, both tidal and non-tidal, such as pine savannas, salt marshes, saltpans, bays and bayous as well as terrestrial habitats that are unique to the coastal zone such as maritime forests.
Healthy estuarine salt marshes and fire-maintained pine savannas are some of the most biodiverse habitats in North America, and the reserve is fortunate enough to contain considerable amounts of both. These habitats support many important species of fish and wildlife. Commercially and recreationally important species of finfish and shellfish such as brown shrimp, speckled trout and oysters abound here. Sea turtles, bottlenose dolphin and, on occasion, manatees can be found in the deeper waters of the reserve. Many species of carnivorous plants and orchids can be found in the higher savanna habitats.