Charlotte Harbor (estuary)
Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 spanning the west coast of Florida
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

 from Venice
Venice, Florida
Venice is a city in Sarasota County, Florida, United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2007 estimates, the city had a population of 21,015. It is noted for its large snowbird population. Its newspaper is the Venice Gondolier Sun...

 to Bonita Springs
Bonita Springs, Florida
Bonita Springs is a city in Lee County, Florida, United States. The population was 43,914 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Cape Coral–Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is located on the southwest coast of the state....

 on the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. The estuary has a large watershed
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

, including the Peace River
Peace River (Florida)
The Peace River is a river in the southwestern part of the Florida peninsula, in the U.S.A.. It originates at the juncture of Saddle Creek and Peace Creek northeast of Bartow in Polk County and flows south through Hardee County to Arcadia in DeSoto County and then southwest into the Charlotte...

, Caloosahatchee River
Caloosahatchee River
The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately long. It drains rural areas on the northern edge of the Everglades northwest of Miami...

 (via Pine Island Sound
Pine Island Sound
Pine Island Sound is located in Lee County, Florida, lying between Pine Island and the barrier islands of Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, North Captiva Island and Cayo Costa, which separate the Sound from the Gulf of Mexico. The Sound connects to Gasparilla Sound and Charlotte Harbor to the north,...

) and Myakka River
Myakka River
The Myakka River is a river in southwestern Florida. It arises near the Hardee-Manatee county line and flows southwest and then southeast through Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties to Charlotte Harbor, an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. The river is long and has a drainage basin of...

 basins and covering 12,653 square kilometers, the second largest open water estuary in the state. It is classified as a bar-built estuary, formed when sandbars build up along the coastline. The sand bars block the waters behind them from the sea. Such estuaries tend to be shallow with minimal tidal action.

This is a threatened ecosystem because of the rapid increase of growth and development, poor land-use policies, and the overuse of natural resources. The Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, established by the state of Florida in 1975, are five contiguous aquatic preserves within the greater Charlotte Harbor estuary. It includes salt marsh
Salt marsh
A salt marsh is an environment in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and salt water or brackish water, it is dominated by dense stands of halophytic plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. These plants are terrestrial in origin and are essential to the stability of the salt marsh...

es, mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

s, seagrass
Seagrasses are flowering plants from one of four plant families , all in the order Alismatales , which grow in marine, fully saline environments.-Ecology:...

, oyster
The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs which live in marine or brackish habitats. The valves are highly calcified....

 and tidal flats. It is the preserve of many endangered species, including the Florida panther
Florida Panther
The Florida panther is an endangered subspecies of cougar that lives in forests and swamps of southern Florida in the United States. Its current taxonomic status is unresolved, but recent genetic research alone does not alter the legal conservation status...

, American Alligator
American Alligator
The American alligator , sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator, is a reptile endemic only to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the two living species of alligator, in the genus Alligator, within the family Alligatoridae...

, West Indian Manatee
West Indian Manatee
The West Indian Manatee is a manatee, and the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia . The West Indian Manatee, Trichechus manatus, is a species distinct from the Amazonian Manatee, T. inunguis, and the West African Manatee, T. senegalensis...

, Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
The Bald Eagle is a bird of prey found in North America. It is the national bird and symbol of the United States of America. This sea eagle has two known sub-species and forms a species pair with the White-tailed Eagle...

, Wood Stork
Wood Stork
The Wood Stork is a large American wading bird in the stork family Ciconiidae. It was formerly called the "Wood Ibis", though it is not really an ibis.-Appearance:...

, Piping Plover
Piping Plover
The Piping Plover is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck...

, American crocodile
American Crocodile
The American crocodile is a species of crocodilian found in the Neotropics. It is the most widespread of the four extant species of crocodiles from the Americas. Populations occur from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of southern Mexico to South America as far as Peru and Venezuela. It also lives...

, Green and Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
The loggerhead sea turtle , or loggerhead, is an oceanic turtle distributed throughout the world. It is a marine reptile, belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The average loggerhead measures around long when fully grown, although larger specimens of up to have been discovered...

s, Gulf sturgeon
Gulf sturgeon
The Gulf sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi is a subspecies of sturgeon that lives in the Gulf of Mexico and some rivers draining into it. The gulf sturgeon was first recognized as a separate subspecies in 1955. The nominate subspecies is the Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrhynchus oxyrinchus...

, Royal False Pawpaw (Deeringothamnus
Deeringothamnus is a genus of flowering plants with two species, belonging to the Annonaceae family. They are native to Florida. Both are federally listed endangered species of the United States.-External links:** ***...

Deeringothamnus pulchellus
Deeringothamnus pulchellus is a rare species of flowering plant in the custard apple family known by the common names beautiful pawpaw, royal false pawpaw, and white squirrel banana. It is endemic to Florida in the United States, where there are perhaps 5000 plants remaining in severely fragmented...

), Florida Perforate Cladonia (Cladonia
Cladonia is a genus of moss-like lichens in the family Cladoniaceae. They are the primary food source for reindeer and caribou. Cladonia species are of economic importance to reindeer-herders, such as the Sami in Scandinavia or the Nenets in Russia. Antibiotic compounds are extracted from some...

) and many more.

See also

  • Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
    Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
    Rookery Bay Reserve is 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....

  • Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park
    Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park
    Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park is a Florida State Park, composed of islands and land that surrounds Charlotte Harbor. It is part of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and protects the Gasparilla Sound/ Charlotte Harbor, Cape Haze, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound aquatic...

External links

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