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Estuaries are dynamic ecosystems characterized by great and constant variability of physicochemical gradients and biological parameters. Considerable fluctuations in salinity levels, temperature, pH, concentrations of oxygen, nutrients and organic matter are quite natural in such water bodies. There are many estuarine forms at the Polish Baltic Coast, including open-sea gulfs (the Gulf of Gdańsk and the Pomeranian Gulf), water bodies connected to the Baltic Sea (Lake Łebsko) and periodically closed water bodies connected to the Baltic Sea by channels or through river-mouths (Lake Jamno and Lake Gardno). The mouths of large rivers, like Odra and Vistula, also show features of estuaries. Estuaries perform a very important function of specific natural filters for a variety of chemical compounds contained in waters flowing through this area. In this way they form an effective buffer zone that prevents the penetration of toxic biological substances into seawater.
Key words: estuary, estuarine forms at the Polish coast, genesis of estuaries