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In this article, we describe the use of diagnostic timescales as simple tools for illuminating how aquatic ecosystems work, with a focus on coastal systems such as estuaries, lagoons, tidal rivers, reefs, deltas, gulfs, and continental shelves. Intending this as a tutorial as well as a review, we discuss relevant fundamental concepts (e.g., Lagrangian and Eulerian perspectives and methods, parcels, particles, and tracers), and describe many of the most commonly used diagnostic timescales anddoi:10.3390/w12102717 fatcat:jybsna3xybcy7kk3lyn7fmzysa