Our Global Estuary

Estuaries are extraordinarily important to coastal economies and quality of life, as well as to ocean environments receiving their water. They are fragile ecosystems strongly affected by storm and drought fluctuations, land-use choices that alter agricultural, urban and freshwater runoff, and climate changes that can moderate or magnify inputs. Although the consequences for seagrass productivity, harmful algal blooms, coral reef resilience, phytoplankton responses and microbial diversity are not well understood, observing systems hold great promise for finding answers.


Our Global Estuary is a response to the urgent need to anticipate and manage changes in estuaries — locally critical ecosystems whose aggregate services are essential for regional and global sustainability. A steering committee was formed in July 2013 to facilitate broad consensus, first in the U.S. and then globally, on the vision and implementation of a sustainable Our Global Estuary. Still in its early planning stages, Our Global Estuary is envisioned as:

  • A broad-scope research, training, and social initiative to understand estuaries both as individual ecosystems and as a global ecosystem
  • An initiative developed organically by the scientific community in partnership with policy makers, resource managers, urban planners, social scientists, communities, and other stakeholders
  • A collaborative network of estuarine observation and prediction systems across the U.S. and the world, systematically generating and openly sharing high-resolution information from sensors and models
  • A catalyst for innovative development of the knowledge and systems necessary to respond regionally to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change, toward regional and global sustainability

The planning of Our Global Estuary is proceeding in stages:

  • A draft vision was developed October 21-23, 2013, at a workshop at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute with 50 invited participants and speakers. The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation was the primary sponsor. The report can be accessed here
  • During 2014, Our Global Estuary will be socialized and enhanced through electronic forums, presentations, earth science and observing system communities, and targeted sessions at scientific, management, and policy meetings across the U.S. and selected meetings worldwide including discussions with international global-change groups
  • An international workshop will be planned in 2015
  • During 2015, Our Global Estuary will be socialized globally in countries and regions such as southeast Asia, India, and the Euro zone to create regional action plans and build towards a globally endorsed vision
  • In early 2016, a global action plan will be drafted at an international workshop

Questions may be directed to Larry Macke