Estuaries are coastal waterbodies where freshwater rivers and streams join the ocean. These transitional zones include a diverse array of highly productive habitats, such as oyster reefs, bays, lagoons, salt marshes, tidal creeks, and bayous.
Estuaries contain some of the most biologically and economically important habitats in the country. They provide unique feeding and nesting habitat for many migratory birds, and aquatic plants and wildlife, including commercially important species of fish and shellfish. They also provide other valuable ecosystem services, such as water filtration, flood dissipation, and recreation.
Estuarine habitats throughout the country are degraded or impaired due to pollution, sediment, altered hydrology, and invasive species, among numerous other threats. Estuarine habitat loss impacts wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; as well as, national and local economies, including loss of tourism and commercial fisheries.
The ERA establishes estuary restoration as national priority, and facilitates restoration through its goals:
Estuary Habitat Restoration Council
The ERA created the interagency Estuary Habitat Restoration Council (Council) responsible for carrying out the directives of the ERA, including administering the financial and technical assistance program, preparing monitoring data standards for estuary restoration projects, and developing a restoration project inventory. The interagency members are:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was elected Council Chair in 2013 for a three-year term.
Draft Revised Monitoring Data Standards
The ERA mandated the development of monitoring data standards, which the Council published in 2003. The Council revised the standards to provide additional information and clarify certain requirements. The revised standards provide additional details on defining project goals, objectives, success criteria, and on preparing project evaluations. The Council intends to formally approve the revised standards by the Fall of 2015.
Here is a summary of the monitoring data standards:
The monitoring data standards are a requirement for all estuary restoration projects supported by ERA funds; however, the Council hopes that the revised standards will promote monitoring in general, and provide standards that restoration practitioners can apply to any estuary restoration project. The draft of the revised monitoring data standards is available here.