Scientists have been studying changes to Narragansett Bay in nutrient inputs and warming waters and will discuss their latest findings.
Narragansett Bay has been touted by scientists to be the cleanest it has ever been in 150 years – a long journey to restoration from its history as a dumping ground for toxic metals, sewage, and other pollutants since the Industrial Revolution.
With improvements in wastewater treatment facilities and controlling storm runoff, Rhode Island has been able to exceed its goal of a 50% reduction in nitrogen. Nitrogen reduction has been a steadfast focus for the state in cleaning up the Bay to reduce harmful algal blooms that lead to low dissolved oxygen levels, which can lead to fish kills, such as occurred in 2003 in Greenwich Bay. And while there are many sources of nitrogen, wastewater facilities have been identified as the primary source in Narragansett Bay.
However, some critics say that such a reduction in nitrogen has made the bay “too clean” by reducing the amount of an important food source to phytoplankton that support local fisheries.
How the Bay will fully respond to reduced levels of nitrogen with the addition of warming waters is still unknown. “We need to watch trends of [secondary impacts],” says Dr. Candace Oviatt, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.
These changes in nitrogen loading into the bay and the secondary impacts of warming waters are what Oviatt and her colleagues have been exploring over the last several years in an effort to provide managers a clearer picture on the changing trends in the timing and availability of nitrogen in Narragansett Bay. This will help resource managers with forecasting and understanding changes in the bay, such as harmful algal bloom dynamics or fisheries resources (e.g. shellfish).
Oviatt will be joined by URI Masters student Michael Potter II and Dr. Robinson Fulweiler from Boston University as part of the Coastal State Discussion webinar series to share current research findings and plans for ongoing research.