The Minho River originates in Serra da Meira, in the province of Lugo (Galiza) and drains into the Atlantic Ocean. It is >300 km long, the last 70 km of which comprises its international section (the natural border between Portugal and Spain). Its hydrological basin has an area of 17 080 km2, 95% of which is located in Spain, and only 5%, in Portugal.

Minho estuary - located 41º 55’ 08’’ North and 8º 46’ 26’’ West - has a total area of 3.4 km2, including Coura estuary. Minho estuary, represented has a maximum width of 3 km and is narrower at its mouth close to Santa Tegra mount. The estuary maximum depth is about 4m near the mouth. At the mouth, Insua Island splits the flow into two channels. Secondary effluents into Minho Estuary are Coura River and Tamuxe River. Tamuxe River extends over 14 km, to reach Minho estuary – about 3km from the estuary mouth. This river has a flow rate of 10 m3/s during the wet season. Coura River extends over 10 km, reaching the estuary 2 km before the estuary mouth and has an annual average flow rate of 12 m3/s.

The River Minho estuary is within a Natura 2000 site owing to its high ecological and conservation significance. In this estuarine area there are important habitats favourable to the occurrence of fish species of economic and/or conservation value (e.g. Platichthys flesus, Solea solea, Scophthalmus rhombus, Dicentrarchus labrax, Petromyzon marinus, Anguilla anguilla, Alosa alosa, Alosa fallax and Salmo salar) and several important bird species (e.g. Ixobrychus minutus and Ardea purpurea) and mammals (e.g. Lutra lutra).

The variety of habitats available (e.g. saltmarsh, sandflats, mudflats and freshwater tidal habitats) and relatively high species diversity made this estuary an ideal site to investigate faunal assemblage composition along a clear estuarine gradient. Additionally, River Minho estuary is used in ecotoxicological studies as a reference site because of the very low human pressure.

Maps of Deltas and region

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