|Parent Agency||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state agencies|
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 30 protected areas established by partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and coastal states. The reserves represent different biogeographic regions of the United States. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System protects more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitats for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship. 
For thousands of years, coastal and estuarine environments have provided people with food, safe harbors, transportation access, flood control, and a place to play and relax. The pressures on the nation's coast are enormous and the impacts on economies and ecosystems are becoming increasingly evident. Severe storms, climate change, pollution, habitat alteration and rapid population growth threaten the ecological functions that have supported coastal communities throughout history. Estuaries are the connection between the ocean (or Great Lakes) and the land and humans depend on both for their very existence, so caring for both – and the connection between them – is vital to humans.
The System was established by the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972 as estuarine sanctuaries and was renamed to estuarine research reserves in the 1988 reauthorization of the CZMA. NOAA provides funding, national guidance and technical assistance. Each reserve is managed on daily basis by a lead state agency or university, with input from local partners.
Reserve staff work with local communities and regional groups to address natural resource management issues, such as non-point source pollution, habitat restoration and invasive species. Through integrated research and education, the reserves help communities develop strategies to deal successfully with these coastal resource issues. Reserves provide adult audiences with training on estuarine issues of concern in their local communities, offer field classes for K-12 students, and provide estuary education to teachers through the Teachers on the Estuary program. Reserves also provide long-term water quality monitoring as well as opportunities for both scientists and graduate students to conduct research in a "living laboratory".
The National Estuarine Research Reserves serve as living laboratories to support coastal research and long-term monitoring and to provide facilities for on-site staff, visiting scientists and graduate students. They also serve as reference sites for comparative studies on coastal topics such as ecosystem dynamics, human influences on estuarine systems, habitat conservation and restoration, species management, and social science. Additionally, the reserves serve as sentinel sites to better understand the effects of climate change.
The goals of the Reserve System's research and monitoring program include:
Each reserve works on a variety of research projects, in addition to participating in the System-wide Monitoring Program. The topics of these projects are varied and depend on local needs and issues, as well as issues of national concern. Topics may include issues such as investigating the impacts of non-point source pollution, understanding the role of social science in coastal resource management, and controlling invasive species. 
The System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP, pronounced “swamp”) was established in 1995 as a means of observing short-term variability and long-term changes in estuarine regions. Each reserve participates in SWMP which provides researchers, resource managers, educators, and other coastal decision makers with standardized, quantitative measures to determine how reserve conditions are changing. By using standard operating procedures for each component across all 30 reserves, SWMP data helps establish the reserves as a system of national reference sites, as well a network of sentinel sites for detecting and understanding the effects of climate change in coastal regions.
SWMP currently has three major components that focus on:
Abiotic parameters include nutrients, temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and in some cases, contaminants. Biological monitoring includes measures of biodiversity, habitat, and population characteristics. Watershed and land use classifications provide information on types of land use by humans and changes in land cover associated with each reserve. SWMP data for each reserve are managed by the Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO), which is managed through a grant to the University of South Carolina and is housed at the North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserve in South Carolina. SWMP data can be viewed and downloaded from the CDMO. 
The NERRS Science Collaborative is designed to put Reserve-based science to work for local communities. Administered by the University of Michigan (UM), the program funds research projects that bring scientists, intended users of the science, stakeholders, educators, and trainers together to address problems related to coastal pollution and habitat degradation in the context of climate change. The results of these projects is shared throughout the System. The Collaborative also sponsors a UM-based graduate and professional education program focused on helping individuals develop the skills needed to link science-based information to coastal resource management decisions. 
National Estuarine Research Reserves are federally designated "to enhance public awareness and understanding of estuarine areas, and provide suitable opportunities for public education and interpretation." Each research reserve is an active member of the local and regional education community and a representative of the state and NOAA stewardship community. The reserve system takes a local approach in advancing estuarine education and generating meaningful experiences for all kinds of people interested in learning about, protecting and restoring estuaries.
The Estuary Education Program strives to enhance student, teacher, and public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of estuaries by providing hands-on, investigative field experiences, curriculum and information material, multi-exposure opportunities, teacher training programs, and public outreach events. The Estuary Education Network is working to advance estuary, climate & ocean literacy. Estuaries can be used as a powerful context to support learning about the interconnections and interdependencies between terrestrial and ocean systems, what important services they provide for humans, and how to restore and protect them. 
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System's Coastal Training Program (CTP) was formally initiated in 2001 to provide up-to-date scientific information and skill-building opportunities to the people who are responsible for making decisions affecting coastal lands and waters of the United States. Through this program, National Estuarine Research Reserves can ensure that coastal decision-makers have the knowledge and tools they need to address critical resource management issues of concern to local communities. Coastal Training Programs offered by reserves focus on issues such as stormwater management, community development, restoration science, land use planning and others. Since 2006, these reserve-based programs have delivered more than 400 evaluated training events reaching at least 13,000 decision-makers in the coastal zone. 
A core mission of the Reserves is to protect and conserve the more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitat within reserves and to facilitate improved stewardship of coastal habitats outside reserve boundaries. The Reserve System's stewardship approach uses the best available science to maintain and restore healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems, and disseminates information to regional and national stakeholders. Site-based stewardship strategies assess and respond to threats from coastal development, human use of reserve resources, climate change, and invasive species. 
Invasive species are species not native to an ecosystem, and whose introduction to that ecosystem can harm the environment, public health or welfare. Reserves manage for invasive species through preventing new introductions and through managed removal if appropriate.
Reserves manage and restore habitat to support species of concern by restoring degraded habitat, enhancing habitat connectivity to support multiple life stages of particular species, managing visitor use pressure during critical life stages and restoring species and habitats such as native oysters and sea grass beds where possible. Reserves also work within the watershed to identify, protect, and restore critical habitat for estuarine species such as salmon.
Many reserves manage habitat that require fire to survive. Fire management through prescribed burns is particularly challenging as these areas often are located near development. Many reserves manage these fire dependent habitats and monitor habitat and species recovery.
Development along our nation's estuaries often results in hydrologic restrictions from roads, dykes, and railroads. These restrictions alter habitat, water quality, and species distribution. Many reserves are addressing these impacts by managing or restoring hydrology through the replacement of culverts, management of tide gates, and/or removal of dykes.
Water quality is a fundamental indicator of the impacts from coastal watersheds and the health of estuarine ecosystems. Good water quality affects coastal habitat quality and human communities that rely on estuaries for recreation and livelihoods. Water quality parameters such as clarity, oxygen content, nutrient concentration, temperature, sedimentation, pH, salinity and others all have profound impacts on natural and human communities in coastal ecosystems.
The reserves are addressing water quality through intensive abiotic monitoring of estuarine habitats through the System-Wide Monitoring Program, working with farmers to develop and monitor best management practices from agriculture, monitoring the impacts of canopy cover on salmon habitats, addressing sedimentation impacts into coastal streams by working with adjacent land owners and evaluating land use impacts through tools such as the Non-Point Source Pollution, Erosion and Control (NSPECT ) tool.
Coastal and estuarine habitats include marshes, forested wetlands, oyster reefs, seagrass beds, beaches, tidal streams, and riparian forests. These habitats are vital not only for fish, birds, and other wildlife, but for human communities as well. They help to protect against flooding, improve water quality, provide recreational opportunities, and support commercial fisheries and tourism. Restoring habitats helps ecosystems by removing pollutants and invasive species, re-establishing natural ecosystem processes, and re-introducing native plants and other wildlife.
The Reserves are working with several NOAA programs and a variety of regional partners to improve the science in support of habitat restoration, restore coastal habitats, control invasive species, protect habitat through acquisition, and implement land management practices that balance the needs for conservation and public access.
The Reserve System's Habitat Mapping and Change Plan was developed in 2007 to establish the framework for mapping habitats in reserves for long-term change related to local sea-level change and human-caused stress from reserve watersheds. The habitat mapping and change plan is supported by additional documents including the NERR Land Cover and Habitat Classification System and associated implementation protocols and documentation.
As living laboratories, the reserves are ideal settings to investigate the restoration and protection of estuarine and coastal habitat. Because of their federally protected status, biogeographic diversity, on-site facilities, long-term monitoring programs and data, and professional staff capabilities in science and education, the reserves are excellent platforms for advancing the science of restoration, staging demonstration restoration projects, and monitoring their long-term response. Most reserves have extensive areas of undisturbed habitat. These are useful as long-term scientific reference sites for understanding estuarine ecosystems and comparing them with other more disturbed habitats in similar physical settings.
To date, the majority of the reserves have engaged in restoration science and have planned or conducted small to medium-scale restoration projects (.5 to 250 acres). An inventory of key habitats at the reserves and restoration activities and priorities conducted in 2000 and updated in 2001 is summarized in the NERRS Restoration Science Strategy. Reserves have investigated both engineering and natural approaches to restore areas to approximate natural, unaltered conditions. Several reserves must first address water quality issues and/or restore hydrologic regimes (i.e. sheet flow, tidal exchange, and freshwater drainage) before they can restore terrestrial and aquatic native plant communities and achieve faunal and ecological recovery. 
|Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve||Florida||1979|
|Ashepoo Combahee Edisto Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve||South Carolina||1992|
|Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (Maryland)||Maryland||1985|
|Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (Virginia)||Virginia||1991|
|Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve||Connecticut||2022|
|Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve||Delaware||1993|
|Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve||California||1979|
|Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Mississippi||1999|
|Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||New Hampshire||1989|
|Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve||Florida||1999|
|He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve||Hawai‘i||2017|
|Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve||New York||1982|
|Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve||New Jersey||1998|
|Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Puerto Rico||1981|
|Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Alaska||1999|
|Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve||Wisconsin||2011|
|Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve||Texas||2006|
|Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Rhode Island||1989|
|North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve||North Carolina||1985|
|North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||South Carolina||1992|
|Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve||Ohio||1980|
|Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Washington||1980|
|Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Florida||1978|
|San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||California||2003|
|Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve||Georgia||1976|
|South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve||Oregon||1974|
|Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve||California||1981|
|Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Massachusetts||1988|
|Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve||Alabama||1986|
|Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve||Maine||1984|
The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is a sanctuary off the Pacific coast in Southern California, providing protection for its natural and cultural resources through education, conservation, science, and stewardship.
The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 is an Act of Congress passed in 1972 to encourage coastal states to develop and implement coastal zone management plans (CZMPs). This act was established as a United States National policy to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, restore or enhance, the resources of the Nation's coastal zone for this and succeeding generations.
The National Ocean Service (NOS) is an office within the U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is responsible for preserving and enhancing the nation's coastal resources and ecosystems along the 95,000 miles (153,000 km) of shoreline bordering 3,500,000 square miles (9,100,000 km2) of coastal, Great Lakes, and ocean waters. Its mission is to "provide science-based solutions through collaborative partnerships to address evolving economic, environmental, and social pressures on our oceans and coasts." The office works closely with many partnered agencies to ensure that ocean and coastal areas are safe, healthy, and productive. National Ocean Service scientists, natural resource managers, and specialists work to ensure safe and efficient marine transportation, promote innovative solutions for the protection of coastal communities, and to conserve marine and coastal places. It is a scientific and technical organization of approximately 1,700 scientists, natural resource managers, and specialists in many different fields. The National Ocean Service was previously known as the National Ocean Survey until it was renamed in 1983.
Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, also known as Wells Reserve, is a National Estuarine Research Reserve located in Wells, Maine. Established in 1984, Wells Reserve manages 2,250 acres (9.1 km2) of coastal habitat, and is headquartered at the historic Laudholm Farm. The land managed by the reserve lies partially within the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Funding for the reserve is provided in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as by the nonprofit Laudholm Trust.
The Golden Gate Biosphere Network is an internationally recognized voluntary coalition of federal, state, and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, universities, and private partners within the Golden Gate Biosphere (GGB) region. The Network works towards protecting the biosphere region’s biodiversity and conserving its natural resources to maintain the quality of life for people within the region. The Network has been part of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme since 1988 and is part of the US Biosphere Network and EuroMAB. It is recognized by UNESCO due to the significant biodiversity of the region, as well as the Network's efforts to demonstrate and promote a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere.
Great Bay is a tidal estuary located in Strafford and Rockingham counties in eastern New Hampshire, United States. The bay occupies over 6,000 acres (24 km2), not including its several tidal river tributaries. Its outlet is at Hilton Point in Dover, New Hampshire, where waters from the bay flow into the Piscataqua River, thence proceeding southeast to the Atlantic Ocean near Portsmouth. The northern end of the bay, near its outlet, is referred to as Little Bay.
The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, located in southeastern New Jersey, encompasses over 110,000 acres (450 km2) of terrestrial, wetland and aquatic habitats within the Mullica River-Great Bay Ecosystem.
Rookery Bay Reserve protects 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands on the gulf coast of Florida, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve represents one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.
Elkhorn Slough is a 7-mile-long (11 km) tidal slough and estuary on Monterey Bay in Monterey County, California. It is California's second largest estuary and the United States' first estuarine sanctuary. The community of Moss Landing and the Moss Landing Power Plant are located at the mouth of the slough on the bay.
The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) is a private, nonprofit organization that was created in 1971. At that time, the members of two regionally based organizations, the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) and the New England Estuarine Research Society (NEERS) recognized the need for a third estuarine organization that would address national estuarine and coastal issues. Today, CERF is a multidisciplinary federation of members and seven regionally based affiliate societies dedicated to the understanding and wise stewardship of estuaries and coasts worldwide.
The Ashepoo Combahee Edisto Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve is a 140,000-acre (570 km2) reserve area located in the ACE Basin, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries on the Atlantic coast of the United States. It is named for the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers, which flow past cypress swamps, historic plantation houses, old rice fields and tidal marshes to meet at South Carolina's biologically rich St. Helena Sound.
The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve consists of two unique components, one on Blackbird Creek and the other on the St. Jones River. Freshwater wetlands, ponds and forest lands dominate the Blackbird Creek component. The St. Jones component is dominated by salt marsh and open water habitats of the Delaware Bay.
Designated in 1991, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve - Virginia (CBNERR-VA) is one of 29 protected areas that make up the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Established to promote informed management of the nation's estuaries and coastal habitats, national estuarine research reserves inspire solutions for healthy coasts and maintain strong local economies, effectively functioning as America's bridge between freshwater and salt.
Mangrove ecosystems represent natural capital capable of producing a wide range of goods and services for coastal environments and communities and society as a whole. Some of these outputs, such as timber, are freely exchanged in formal markets. Value is determined in these markets through exchange and quantified in terms of price. Mangroves are important for aquatic life and home for many species of fish.
Restore America's Estuaries (RAE) is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit conservation organization dedicated to preserving the nation's network of estuaries through coastal protection and restoration projects which promote the richness and diversity of coastal life. Based in Arlington, VA with staff in Seattle, Colorado, and Florida, Restore America's Estuaries is an alliance of eleven community-based coastal conservation organizations that includes the American Littoral Society (ALS), Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF), North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF), Save The Bay – San Francisco (STB-SF), EarthCorps, Save The Bay – Narragansett Bay (STB-NB), Save the Sound (STS)-a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, and Tampa Bay Watch (TBW).
Oyster reef restoration refers to the process of rebuilding or restoring of oyster reefs all over the globe. Over time, oysters have been negatively affected by environmental change, such as harmful fishing techniques, over harvesting, water pollution, and other factors. The results of these factors have been disease and ultimately, a large decline in the global population of oysters and the prevalence and sustainability of oyster reefs. Apart from the ecological importance of oyster reefs, oyster farming is an important industry, particularly in coastal areas. Both artificial materials and natural components have been used to rebuild the reefs in an attempt to regenerate the oyster population thus fostering the reformation of reefs.
Michael J. Kennish is an American marine scientist and a research professor in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He is best known for his work on the effects of human activities on estuarine and marine environments.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation is a nonprofit organization that works with coastal residents and visitors to protect and restore the beautiful and productive N.C. coast. The four main areas in which the federation operates include: coastal advocacy; environmental education; habitat and water quality restoration and preservation; and support in the improvement and enforcement of environmental laws. The federation headquarters are located in Newport (Ocean), North Carolina, with regional offices in Wanchese and Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. The federation is currently a member of Restore America's Estuaries (RAE).
Estuary freshwater inflow is the freshwater that flows into an estuary. Other types of environmental flows include instream flow, the freshwater water flowing in rivers or streams, and estuary outflow, the outflow from an estuary to the ocean.
North Campus Open Space (NCOS) is a 136-acre wetland and upland restoration project located on a former golf course in Goleta, California. NCOS is managed by the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER), a research center under the Office of Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The primary objectives of this project are: the restoration of the historic upper half of Devereux Slough and adjacent upland and wetland habitats that support important local native plant and animal species, reducing flood risk, providing a buffer against predicted sea level rise, and contributing to carbon sequestration while also supporting public access and outreach, and facilitating research and educational opportunities for all members of the community.