From the Forest to the Sea: South Carolina's Productive Estuaries



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The coast of South Carolina is a broad and gently sloping plain bordered with barrier islands and beaches interspersed with tidal inlets and rivers. These inlets and rivers are termed estuaries and are defined as semi-enclosed bodies of water with free connections to the ocean where sea water mixes with freshwater from land runoff. This combination of freshwater runoff, geological structure, and the interaction with tides and waves from the sea means that every estuary is unique. But, it also entails some commonality between estuaries.

When the American Indians arrived on the Carolina coast, there was an abundance of living resources. The Indians essentially lived in harmony with nature, but along the coast and particularly in estuaries, shell mounds that record their utilization of shellfish, clams, and oysters are common. The early European settlers to South Carolina used estuaries not only as a source of fisheries and agricultural resources, but also as major conduits for transportation between the coastal seaports and the productive areas of the interior. After centuries of relatively low human population density along the coast, this highly productive area is now undergoing intense development that is rapidly altering the structure and function of its estua­rine ecosystems. The purpose of this paper is to synthesize and identify the common trends and patterns exhibited by these systems in South Carolina and to show why our estuaries are so productive.


This series was made possible through the generous support of HTC, the Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc.


Coastal Carolina University--Periodicals;Lecture--Series;Estuaries--South Carolina;Dame, Richard F.


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From the Forest to the Sea: South Carolina's Productive Estuaries