Protecting & Restoring Long Island's Peconic Bays


A brief explanation of common Estuary terms.

Algae – unicellular or multicellular photosynthetic organisms occurring in freshwater or saltwater.

Algae blooms – a rapid increase or accumulation of algae in fresh or marine ecosystems, recognized by the discoloration of the water from their pigments.

Anoxia – an absence of oxygen.

Aquifer – a body of permeable rock that can contain or transmit groundwater.

Benthic/Benthos – of, relating to, or occurring at the bottom of a body of water.

Biodiversity – the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.

Brackish – a mixture of fresh and saltwater typically found in estuarine areas. Water that is saline but not as salty as sea-water. The concentration of salt is between 0.5 to 35 parts per thousand.

Coast – the land along the edge of the sea.

Conservation – preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife.

Dam – a barrier constructed to hold back water and raise its level. The resulting reservoir is used for the generation of electricity, as a water supply or to provide recreation.

Degradation – the act or process of damaging or ruining something.

Dissolved Oxygen – microscopic bubbles of gaseous oxygen (O2) that are mixed in water and available to aquatic organisms for respiration. Primary sources include the atmosphere and aquatic vegetation.

Ecosystem – a community of organisms and their physical environment that act as a unit.

Eelgrass – a marine plant with long ribbon-like leaves that grows in coastal waters and brackish inlets.

Endangered species – a species of animal or plant that is at serious risk of extinction.

Endemic – a plant or animal that lives exclusively in one specific place.

Erosion – the gradual process of wearing away by wind, water, or other natural agents.

Estuary – a semi-enclosed coastal body of water that connects with the open sea. It is a transition zone where saltwater from the ocean mixes with freshwater from rivers and land.

Fertilizers – a chemical or natural substance that is added to soil or land to increase its fertility.

Fish kills – a localized die-off of fish populations.  The most common cause is oxygen depletion, which may be due to factors including drought, algal blooms, overpopulation, or sustained increase in water temperature.  Disease, parasites, and toxicity are also possible causes, but much less common.

Fish passage – a series of artificial pools arranged like ascending steps, allowing migrating fish to swim upstream around a dam or other obstruction.

Freshwater – naturally occurring water on Earth’s surface in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams and underground as groundwater, characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and other total dissolved solids. The concentration of salts is nearly zero.

Groundwater – water that is present underneath the Earth’s surface. Groundwater is replenished by precipitation penetrating beneath the land’s surface and infiltration from streams.

Habitat – the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism.

Hardened shoreline –  defined as man-made structures intended to stabilize the shoreline and to facilitate recreational and commercial activities. Hardened shoreline structures include docks, jetties, permanents piers, groins, revetments, and bulkheads/seawalls. Although they may offer some short-term benefit to landowners, hardened shorelines promote environmental degradation and often are not effective as long-term solutions for coastal erosion. Construction of hardened shoreline structures frequently leads to loss of vital habitats such as salt marsh and eelgrass beds. This, in turn, reduces spawning habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish species, promotes erosion, and may increase coastal flooding.

Harmful algal bloom – occurs when colonies of algae grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people or wildlife.

Hypoxia – a deficiency of oxygen, before reaching anoxia.

Invasive species – a plant, fungus, or animal species not native to their new environment. When spread they can outcompete native species, decrease biodiversity and permanently alter habitat.

Marine debris – is defined as any persistent solid material that was manufactured or processed by people, discarded or lost, and entered the ocean directly or indirectly.Examples include plastic bags, soda cans, and derelict fishing gear.

Marsh – an area of low-lying land that is flooded in wet seasons or at hide tide, and typically remains waterlogged at all times.

Nonpoint source pollution – a source of pollution from widely distributed environmental elements.  It is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over or through the ground, picking up natural and human-made pollutants and depositing them into lakes, river, wetlands, coastal waters and groundwater.

Nutrients – substances that provide nourishment essential for growth and maintenance of life.

Pathogens – bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms that can cause disease.

Pesticides – substances used to destroy unwanted plants, insects or other organisms.

Point source pollution – a localized and stationary pollution source, e.g. a pipe.

Pollution – the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.

Runoff – water from rain or snowmelt that flows over the surface of the ground into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and groundwater.

Saltwater – water from a sea or ocean. Defined as having a salt concentration of 35 parts per thousand.

Sediment – any small particle matter from eroded soil or debris that can be carried by fluid flow and settles to a bottom of a body of water.

Septic systems – a tank, typically underground, which collects wastewater and allows it to decompose by means of bacteriological activity before flowing out into an area where the wastewater can leach into the soil.  These systems are usually on the user’s property and many homeowners have one in their backyard.

Sewage Treatment plant – a facility that collects wastewater from residences and properties  connected to the sewer system and removes contaminants from wastewater.

Sewer systems – underground carriage systems for transporting sewage from houses and commercial buildings through pipes to treatment or disposal.

Shellfish – an aquatic shelled mollusk or a crustacean.

Shore – the land along the edge of a sea, lake, or other large body of water.

Stormwater – water generated from rain or snowmelt events

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) – rooted, vascular plants that grow completely underwater except for periods of brief exposure at low tide.

Tides – the alternate rising and falling of the sea, usually twice in each lunar day at a particular place, due to the attraction of the moon and sun.

Toxic contaminants – man-made or naturally occurring substances that, when found in certain concentrations, can cause adverse ecosystem or human health effects. Examples include pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and flame retardants.

Watershed – the area of land that drains into a particular body of water.

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