|Old Woman Creek in Ohio|
Rivermouths are the connections between the riverine inputs to the Great Lakes and the near-shore. These systems are important economically and ecologically. Many of these systems are highly degraded. Rivermouths are functionally very similar to marine estuaries, although with much less dramatic chemical gradients.
Although rivermouths are demonstrably important to a variety of important ecosystem processes (fish production, navigation, wildlife production), they've tended to fall through the cracks a little bit in terms of research. Essentially, there has been a lot of work done in Great Lakes streams and a lot of work done in the Great Lakes themselves, but relatively little done in rivermouths. The last 10-15 years has seen a dramatic increase in the focus on Great Lakes near-shore environments in general, and rivermouths certainly seem to be an important component of near-shore processes. A fair amount of research on coastal wetlands has been somewhat indirectly targeting rivermouths, and it seems as if wetlands associated with rivermouths have unique ecological characteristics.
There are really more cool things about these ecosystems than I could possibly cover here. I'll try to cover some of this in the blog proper.