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Tautuku Estuary

Tautuku Estuary is a medium-sized tidal lagoon, and a shallow intertidally dominated estuary (SIDE), located approximately 140km south of Dunedin. 

Overall, most of this estuary is in ‘very good’ condition, with an intact, unmodified transition from extensive salt marsh to freshwater wetland and indigenous forest, plus a wide range of other habitat types (i.e., mobile sands, mud flats and rock field).

There is no evidence of nutrient enrichment (i.e., eutrophication) problems in the estuary, and the unvegetated tidal flats are in a healthy condition, though have been naturally impoverished in terms of the flora and fauna present.

The estuary and its environment retain a high ecological quality, largely attributed to the ‘excellent’ water quality of freshwater inputs and a high degree of naturalness (97.9% indigenous vegetation) remaining in the catchment.

Tautuku Estuary represents an important reference site against which long-term changes in other estuaries across the Otago region can be compared.

Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features
    • Important reference site for all estuaries in the Otago region as it’s in very good condition and has suffered very little modification
    • High degree of naturalness
    • Natural transition between estuarine sand flats to native forest
    • Catchment is ~98% indigenous vegetation such as rata, manuka, and dunes
    • High value habitat for a diversity of fish including black and yellow belly flounder
    • Important habitat for coastal birds including waders, shorebirds, fern birds, and waterfowl
    • Extensive high-value salt marsh habitat
    • Includes large sand dunes
  • Total area
    94 hectares
  • Key rivers
    • Tautuku River
    • Fleming River

What's happening upstream?

See results from monitored river quality sites influencing this estuary

River quality

What's happening upstream?

The physical characteristics and health of estuaries are influenced by the rivers and streams flowing into them. For instance, when it rains the mud and contaminants generated on land can be washed into rivers and eventually flow into the estuary. The health of our rivers and streams can therefore be very important for Estuary Health, and understanding the upstream pressures can help with interpreting estuary monitoring data.

Monitoring is undertaken for a range of river health indicators (e.g., water quality and ecology) in many catchments across the region. Where there are monitored river catchments that influence this estuary, these are shown below. You can click through to view monitoring results from these River Quality sites to see current state and how health has changed over time.

What surrounds my estuary?

See land cover information from monitored catchments that surround this estuary

Land cover

What surrounds my estuary?

The physical characteristics and health of estuaries are influenced by local geography and the way we use our land. This is because estuaries are the receiving environments for many of our land use activities. Land cover information can be used as an indicator of land use, therefore knowing the surrounding land cover can help us understand which pressures might be affecting Estuary Health.

Where there is land cover information available for nearby catchments, these are listed below. These figures show the types of vegetation and built or natural features that surround the estuary margins and the rivers that flow into this estuary. You can click through to the Land Cover topic to see these land cover classes broken down into further detail, and view changes over time.

Monitored sites 2

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