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The concept of an estuary: A definition that incorporates systems which can become closed to the ocean and hypersaline


Potter, IC and Chuwen, BM and Hoeksema, SD and Elliott, M, The concept of an estuary: A definition that incorporates systems which can become closed to the ocean and hypersaline, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 87, (3) pp. 497-500. ISSN 0272-7714 (2010) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. The definitive version is available at

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2010.01.021


The majority of the definitions of estuaries have been based on the characteristics of estuaries in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. As previously pointed out (Day, 1980), such definitions do not take into account such features as periodic closure of their mouths and hypersaline conditions during dry periods, which characterise many estuaries in southern Africa and south-western Australia. There is also ambiguity as to whether an estuary sensu stricto must be fed by a river. The following definition was developed to encompass the main characteristics of all estuaries: An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of water that is either permanently or periodically open to the sea and which receives at least periodic discharge from a river(s), and thus, while its salinity is typically less than that of natural sea water and varies temporally and along its length, it can become hypersaline in regions when evaporative water loss is high and freshwater and tidal inputs are negligible. Estuaries are thus regarded as unique ecosystems, which, in the case of fishes, for example, are occupied by species that collectively represent a particular suite of guilds.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:estuary, permanently open, seasonally open, normally closed, hypersalinity, river
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Biological oceanography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the mathematical sciences
UTAS Author:Chuwen, BM (Dr Ben Chuwen)
ID Code:71834
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:114
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2011-08-10
Last Modified:2012-10-23
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