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An estuary is a semi-enclosed coastal body of water which has a free connection with the open sea and within which sea water mixes with fresh water. The key feature of an estuary is that it is an interface between sea water and fresh water and there is an influence of the ocean tide creating a dynamic relationship between the two waters.
An estuary is typically the mouth of a river, and estuaries are often characterised by sedimentation of silt from the river, which provides a unique habitat, for example, for wading birds. Estuaries are more likely to occur on submerged coastlines , where the sea level has risen in relation to the land, as this process floods valleys to form rias, fjords etc, which can be classified as estuaries.
The estuaries are sometimes confused with fjords. The Lim bay in Istria, Croatia, is often called "Lim fjord" although it's not actually caused by glaciation but by land erosion by the river Pazinčica.
- Pritchard, D. W. (1967) What is an estuary: physical viewpoint. p. 3–5 in: G. H. Lauf (ed.) Estuaries, A.A.A.S. Publ. No. 83, Washington, D.C.