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Freebase Commons Metaweb System Types /type

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  • An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments and are subject to both marine influences--such as tides, waves, and the influx of saline water--and riverine influences, such as flows of fresh water and sediment. The inflows of both sea water and fresh water provide high levels of nutrients in both the water column and sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats in the world. Most existing estuaries were formed during the Holocene epoch by the flooding of river-eroded or glacially scoured valleys when the sea level began to rise about 10,000-12,000 years ago. Estuaries are typically classified by their geomorphological features or by water circulation patterns and can be referred to by many different names, such as bays, harbors, lagoons, inlets, or sounds, although some of these water bodies do not strictly meet the above definition of an estuary and may be fully saline.

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