Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 37, Supplement 1, pp 198–221 | Cite as

Mind the Data Gap: Identifying and Assessing Drivers of Changing Eutrophication Condition

  • Benjamin Fertig
  • Michael J. Kennish
  • Gregg P. Sakowicz
  • Laura K. Reynolds
Article

Abstract

This study identified drivers of change in Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Estuary, NJ, USA over multiple long-term time periods by developing an assessment tool (an “Eutrophication Index”) capable of handling data gaps and identifying the condition of and relationships between ecosystem pressures, ecosystem state, and biotic responses. The Eutrophication Index integrates 15 indicators in 3 components: (1) water quality, (2) light availability, and (3) seagrass response. Annual quantitative assessments of condition and its consistency for three geographic segments range from 0 (highly degraded) to 100 (excellent condition). Eutrophication Index values significantly declined (p < 0.05) by 34 and 36 % in central and south segments from 73 and 71 in the early 1990s to 48 and 45 in 2010, respectively. Ongoing declines despite periods of improvement (e.g., 1989–1992, 1996–2002, and 2006–2008) suggest these estuarine segments are currently undergoing eutrophication. The north segment had highest nutrient loading and lowest Eutrophication Index values (2010 Eutrophication Index value = 37) but increased over time (from 14 in 1991 to 50 in 2009) in contrast to trends in central and south segments. Rapid initial declines of Eutrophication Index values with increasing loading highlight that the estuary is sensitive to loading. Ecosystem response to total nutrient loading, as described by the Index of Eutrophication, exhibited nonlinearity at loading rates of >1,200 and <5,000 kg TN km−2 year−1 and >100 and <250 kg TP km−2 year−1, values similar to responses of seagrass to nutrient loading in many ecosystems. While nutrient loading is initially a critical driver of ecosystem change, other factors, e.g., light availability and drive ecosystem condition, yield nonlinearity. Empirical evidence for switches in the driving factors of ecosystem stress adds complexity to the conceptualization of ecosystem resiliency due to feedback from multiple dynamic, nonlinear stressors.

Keywords

Eutrophication Biotic indices Long-term data Data gaps Ecological status Multivariate analysis 

Supplementary material

12237_2013_9746_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (58 kb)
ESM 1Annual means of nutrient loading, water quality indicators, light availability indicators, and seagrass indicators (PDF 57 kb)
12237_2013_9746_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (25 kb)
ESM 2XLSX 24 kb

References

  1. Anderson, D.M., P.M. Glibert, and J.M. Burkholder. 2002. Harmful algal blooms and eutrophication: nutrient sources, composition, and consequences. Estuaries 25: 704–726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, R.J., C.M. Wieben, R.G. Lathrop, and R.S. Nicholson. 2013. Determination of concentrations, loads, and yields of nitrogen and phosphorus species within the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Watershed, New Jersey, 1989–2011. In Support of investigating spatial and temporal variability of conditions in the estuary. 128 pp. U.S. Geological Survey, Trenton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  3. Borja, A., J. Franco, and V. Perez. 2000. A marine biotic index to establish the ecological quality of soft-bottom benthos within European estuarine and caoastal environments. Marine Pollution Bulletin 40: 1100–1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borja, A., V. Valencia, J. Franco, I. Muxika, J. Bald, M.J. Belzunce, and O. Solaun. 2004. The water framework directive: water alone, or in association with sediment and biota, in determining quality standards? Marine Pollution Bulletin 49: 8–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borja, A., D.M. Dauer, R.J. Diaz, R.J. Llanso, I. Muxika, J.G. Rodriguez, and L. Schaffner. 2008. Assessing estuarine benthic quality condition in Chesapeake Bay: a comparison of three indices. Ecological Indicators 8: 395–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boynton, W.R., L. Murray, J.D. Hagy, C. Stokes, and W.M. Kemp. 1996. A comparative analysis of eutrophication patterns in a temperate coastal lagoon. Estuaries 19: 408–421.Google Scholar
  7. Breitburg, D.L. 2002. Effects of hypoxia, and the balance between hypoxia and enrichment, on coastal fishes and fisheries. Estuaries 25: 767–781.Google Scholar
  8. Breitburg, D.L., L. Pihl, and S.E. Kolesar. 2001. Effects of low dissolved oxygen on the behavior, ecology and harvest of fishes: a comparison of the Chesapeake and Baltic systems. In Coastal hypoxia: consequences for living resources and ecosystems. Coastal and Estuarine Studies 58, ed. N.N. Rabalais and R.E. Turner, 241–267. Washington, D.C: American Geophysical Union.Google Scholar
  9. Bricker, S.B., C.G. Clement, D.E. Pirhalla, S.P. Orlando, and D.R.G. Farrow. 1999. National Estuarine Eutrophication Assessment: effects of nutrient enrichment in the nation's estuaries. NOAA, National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.Google Scholar
  10. Bricker, S.B., J.G. Ferreira, and T. Simas. 2003. An integrated methodology for assessment of estuarine trophic status. Ecological Modelling 169: 39–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bricker, S.B., B. Longstaff, W. Dennison, A.B.. Jones, K. Boicourt, E.C. Wicks, and J.L. Woerner. 2007. Effects of nutrient enrichment in the nation’s estuaries: a decade of change. NOAA, National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, MD, USA.Google Scholar
  12. Brush, M.J., and S.M. Nixon. 2002. Direct measurements of light attenuation by epiphytes on eelgrass Zostera marina. Marine Ecology Progress Series 238: 73–79.Google Scholar
  13. Burkholder, J.M. 2001. Eutrophication and oligotrophication. In Encyclopedia of biodiversity, vol. 2, ed. S. Levin, 649–670. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  14. Burkholder, J.M., D.A. Tomasko, and B.W. Touchette. 2007. Seagrasses and eutrophication. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 350: 46–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carvalho, L., R. Cortes, and A.A. Bordalo. 2011. Evaluation of the ecological status of an impaired watershed by using a multi-index approach. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 174: 493–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cloern, J.E. 2001. Our evolving conceptual model of the coastal eutrophication problem. Marine Ecology Progress Series 210: 223–253.Google Scholar
  17. Conley, D.J. 1999. Biogeochemical nutrient cycles and nutrient management strategies. Hydrobiologia 410: 87–96.Google Scholar
  18. Conley, D.J., H.W. Paerl, R.W. Howarth, D.F. Boesch, S.P. Seitzinger, K.E. Havens, C. Lancelot, and G.E. Likens. 2009. Controlling eutrophication: nitrogen and phosphorus. Science 323: 1014–1015.Google Scholar
  19. Conway, T.M., and R.G. Lathrop. 2005. Alternative land use regulations and environmental impacts: assessing future land use in an urbanizing watershed. Landscape and Urban Planning 71: 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Daskin, J.H., K.R. Calci, W.I. Burkhardt, and R.H. Carmichael. 2008. Use of N stable isotope and microbial analyses to define wastewater influence in Mobile Bay, AL. Marine Pollution Bulletin 56: 860–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Deegan, L.A. 2002. Lessons learned: the effects of nutrient enrichment on the support of nekton by seagrass and salt marsh ecosystems. Estuaries 25: 727–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Deegan, L., A. Wright, S.G. Ayvazian, J.T. Finn, H. Golden, R.R. Merson, and J. Harrison. 2002. Nitrogen loading alters seagrass ecosystem structure and support of higher trophic levels. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 12: 193–212.Google Scholar
  23. Dennison, W.C., R.J. Orth, K.A. Moore, J.C. Stevenson, V. Carter, S. Kollar, P.W. Bergstrom, and R.A. Batiuk. 1993. Assessing water quality with submerged aquatic vegetation. BioScience 43: 86–94.Google Scholar
  24. Dettmann, E.H. 2001. Effect of water residence time on annual export and denitrification of nitrogen in estuaries: a model analysis. Estuaries 24: 481–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Diaz, R.J., and A. Solow. 1999. Ecological and economic consequences of hypoxia. Topic 2. Gulf of Mexico hypoxia assessment. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coastal Ocean Program Decision Analysis Series. NOAA Coastal Ocean Program, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.Google Scholar
  26. Dodds, W.K., and J.M. Oakes. 2004. A technique for establishing reference nutrient concentrations across watersheds affected by humans. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 2: 333–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Duarte, C.M. 1995. Submerged aquatic vegetation in relation to different nutrient regimes. Ophelia 41: 87–112.Google Scholar
  28. Duarte, C.M. 2009. Coastal eutrophication research: a new awareness. Hydrobiologia 629: 263–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Elliott, M., and V. Quintino. 2007. The estuarine quality paradox, environmental homeostasis and the difficulty of detecting anthropogenic stress in naturally stressed areas. Marine Pollution Bulletin 54: 640–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Elliott, M., D. Burdon, K.L. Hemingway, and S.E. Apitz. 2007. Estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystem restoration: confusing management and science—a revision of concepts. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 74: 349–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ferreira, J.G., J.H. Andersen, A. Borja, S.B. Bricker, J. Camp, M.H.C. da Silva, E. Garces, A.S. Heiskanen, C. Humborg, L. Ignatiades, C. Lancelot, A. Menesguen, P. Tett, N. Hoepffner, and U. Claussen. 2011. Overview of eutrophication indicators to assess environmental status within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 93: 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fertig, B., T.J.B. Carruthers, W.C. Dennison, A.B. Jones, F. Pantus, and B. Longstaff. 2009. Oyster and macroalgae bioindicators detect elevated Δ15N in Maryland's Coastal Bays. Estuaries and Coasts 32: 773–786.Google Scholar
  33. Fertig, B., M.J. Kennish, and G.P. Sakowicz. 2013a. Changing eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) characteristics in a highly eutrophic temperate coastal lagoon. Aquatic Botany 104: 70–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fertig, B., J.M. O’Neil, K.A. Beckert, C.J. Cain, D.M. Needham, T.J.B. Carruthers, and W.C. Dennison. 2013b. Elucidating terrestrial nutrient sources to a coastal lagoon, Chincoteague Bay, Maryland, USA. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 116: 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gastrich, M.D., R. Lathrop, S. Haag, M.P. Weinstein, M. Danko, D.A. Caron, and R. Schaffner. 2004. Assessment of brown tide blooms, caused by Aureococcus anophagefferens, and contributing factors in New Jersey coastal bays: 2000–2002. Harmful Algae 3: 305–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Guo, Q., N.P. Psuty, G.P. Lordi, S. Glenn, M.R. Mund, and M.D. Gastrich. 2004. Hydrographic study of Barnegat Bay. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Science and Research.Google Scholar
  37. Hauxwell, J., and I. Valiela. 2004. Effects of nutrient loading on shallow seagrass-dominated coastal systems: patterns and processes. In Estuarine nutrient cycling: the influence of primary producers, ed. S. Nielsen, G. Banta, and M. Pedersen, 59–92. The Netherlands: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hauxwell, J., J. Cebrian, and I. Valiela. 2003. Eelgrass Zostera marina loss in temperate estuaries: relationship to land-derived nitrogen loads and effect of light limitation imposed by algae. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 247: 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. HELCOM. 2010. Ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea 2003–2007: HELCOM Initial Holistic Assessment.Google Scholar
  40. Howell, P., and D. Simpson. 1994. Abundance of marine resources to dissolved oxygen in Long Island Sound. Estuaries 17: 394–402.Google Scholar
  41. Hunchak-Kariouk, K., and R.S. Nicholson. 2001. Watershed contributions of nutrients and other nonpoint source contaminants to the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Estuary. Journal of Coastal Research SI32: 28–81.Google Scholar
  42. Kemp, W.M., R. Batuik, R. Bartleson, P. Bergstrom, V. Carter, C.L. Gallegos, W. Hunley, L. Karrh, E.W. Koch, J.M. Landwehr, K.A. Moore, L. Murray, M. Naylor, N.B. Rybicki, J.C. Stevenson, and D.J. Wilcox. 2004. Habitat requirements for submerged aquatic vegetation in Chesapeake Bay: water quality, light regime, and physical–chemical factors. Estuaries 27: 363–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kennish, M.J. (ed.). 2001a. Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor. New Jersey: Estuary and Watershed Assessment.Google Scholar
  44. Kennish, M.J. 2001b. Status of the estuary and watershed: an overview. Journal of Coastal Research SI 32: 243–273.Google Scholar
  45. Kennish, M.J., and V.N. de Jonge. 2011. Chemical introductions to the systems: diffuse and nonpoint source pollution from chemicals (nutrients: eutrophication). In Treatise on estuarine and coastal science, ed. E. Wolanski and D.S. McLusky, 113–148. Waltham, MA, USA: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kennish, M.J., and B. Fertig. 2012. Application and assessment of a nutrient pollution indicator using eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor estuary, New Jersey. Aquatic Botany 96: 23–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kennish, M.J., S.B. Bricker, W.C. Dennison, P.M. Glibert, R.J. Livingston, K.A. Moore, R.T. Noble, H.W. Paerl, J.M. Ramstack, S. Seitzinger, D.A. Tomasko, and I. Valiela. 2007. Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Estuary: case study of a highly eutrophic coastal bay system. Ecological Applications 17: S3–S16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kennish, M.J., S.M. Haag, and G.P. Sakowicz. 2010. Seagrass decline in New Jersey coastal lagoons: a response to increasing eutrophication. In Coastal lagoons: critical habitats of environmental change, ed. M.J. Kennish and H.W. Paerl, 167–201. Boca Raton, FL, USA: Taylor and Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kennish, M.J., B. Fertig, and G.P. Sakowicz. 2011. Benthic macroalgal blooms as an indicator of system eutrophy in the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor estuary. Bulletin of the New Jersey Academy of Sciences 56: 1–5.Google Scholar
  50. Kennish, M.J., B. Fertig, and R.G. Lathrop. 2012. Assessment of nutrient loading and eutrophication in Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey in support of nutrient management planning. Draft final report. Rutgers University, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.Google Scholar
  51. Kiddon, J.A., J.F. Paul, H.W. Buffum, C.S. Strobel, S.S. Hale, D. Cobb, and B.S. Brown. 2003. Ecological condition of US Mid-Atlantic estuaries, 1997-1998. Marine Pollution Bulletin 46: 1224–1244.Google Scholar
  52. Kimmel, D.G., H. Townsend, T.J.B. Carruthers, and B. Fertig. 2010. Environmental statistics: balancing simplicity and explanatory power. In Integrating and applying science: a practical handbook for effective coastal ecosystem assessment, ed. B.J. Longstaff, T.J.B. Carruthers, W.C. Dennison, T.R. Lookingbill, J.M. Hawkey, J.E. Thomas, E.C. Wicks, and J.L. Woerner, 113–132. Cambridge, MD: IAN Press.Google Scholar
  53. Lathrop, R.G., and T.M. Conway. 2001. A buildout analysis of the Barnegat Bay watershed. New Brunswick, NJ, USA: Rutgers University, Center of Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis.Google Scholar
  54. Latimer, J.S., and S.A. Rego. 2010. Empirical relationship between eelgrass extent and predicted watershed-derived nitrogen loading for shallow New England estuaries. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 90: 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lea, C., R.L. Pratt, T.E. Wagner, E.W. Hawkes, and A.E. Almario. 2003. Use of submerged aquatic vegetation habitat requirements as targets for water quality in Maryland and Virginia Coastal Bays. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virgina. National Parks Service Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-2003/316. National Parks Service Water Resources Division, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.Google Scholar
  56. Lee, K.-S., S.R. Park, and Y.K. Kim. 2007. Effects of irradiance, temperature, and nutrients on growth dynamics of seagrasses: a review. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 350: 144–175.Google Scholar
  57. Malone, T.C., D.J. Conley, T.R. Fisher, P.M. Glibert, L.W. Harding, and K.G. Sellner. 1996. Scales of nutrient-limited phytoplankton productivity in Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries 19: 371–385.Google Scholar
  58. Niemi, G.J., and M.E. McDonald. 2004. Application of ecological indicators. Annual Review of Ecology and Evolutionary Systematics 35: 89–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Oliva, S., O. Mascaró, I. Llagostera, M. Pérez, and J. Romero. 2012. Selection of metrics based on the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa and development of a biotic index (CYMOX) for assessing ecological status of coastal and transitional waters. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 114: 7–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Orth, R.J., Luckenbach, M.L., Marion, S.R., Moore, K.A., Wilcox, D.A. 2006. Seagrass recovery in the Delmarva Coastal Bays, USA. Aquatic Botany 84: 26–36Google Scholar
  61. OSPAR. 2008. Second OSPAR integrated report on the eutrophication status of the OSPAR Maritime Area, 2008-372. OSPAR.Google Scholar
  62. Psuty, N.P. 2004. Morpho-sedimentological characteristics of the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary. In The coastal zone: Papers in honor of H. Jesse Walker, Geoscience and Man Series No. 38, eds. D.W. Davis, and M. Richardson, 81-92. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University.Google Scholar
  63. Psuty, N.P., and T.M. Silveira. 2009. Geomorphological evolution of estuaries: the dynamic basis for morpho-sedimentary units in selected estuaries in the northeastern United States. Marine Fisheries Review 71: 34–45.Google Scholar
  64. Quinn, G. and M. Keough. 2002. Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Ralph, P.J., M.J. Durako, S. Enriques, C.J. Collier, and M.A. Doblin. 2007. Impact of light limitation on seagrasses. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 350: 176–193.Google Scholar
  66. Seitzinger, S.P., R.M. Styles, and I.E. Pilling. 2001. Benthic microalgal and phytoplankton production in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey (USA): microcosm experiments and data synthesis. Journal of Coastal Research SI 32: 144–162.Google Scholar
  67. Short, F.T., and D.M. Burdick. 1996. Quantifying eelgrass habitat loss in relation to housing development and nitrogen loading in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Estuaries 19: 730–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sokal, R., and F. Rohlf. 1981. Biometry. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Co.Google Scholar
  69. Srebotnjak, T., G. Carr, A. de Sherbinin, and C. Rickwood. 2012. A global Water Quality Index and hot-deck imputation of missing data. Ecological Indicators 17: 108–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Steckbauer, A., C.M. Duarte, J. Carstensen, R. Vaquer-Sunyer, and D.J. Conley. 2011. Ecosystem impacts of hypoxia: thresholds of hypoxia and pathways to recovery. Environmental Research Letters 6: 025003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stevenson, J.C., L.W. Staver, and K.W. Staver. 1993. Water quality associated with survival of submersed aquatic vegetation along an estuarine gradient. Estuaries 16: 346–361.Google Scholar
  72. Tomasko, D.A., C.J. Dawes, and M.O. Hall. 1996. The effects of anthropogenic nutrient enrichment on turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Estuaries 19: 448–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Underwood AJ (1997). Experiments in ecology: Their logical design and interpretation using analysis of variance. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  74. US Census Bureau. 2000. Summary File 1 (SF 1) and Summary File 3 (SF 3).Google Scholar
  75. Valiela, I., and M.L. Cole. 2002. Comparative evidence that salt marshes and mangroves may protect seagrass meadows from land-derived nitrogen loads. Ecosystems 5: 92–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Valiela, I., M. Geist, J. McClelland, and G. Tomasky. 2000. Nitrogen loading from watersheds to estuaries: verification of the Waquoit Bay Nitrogen Loading Model. Biogeochemistry 49: 277–293.Google Scholar
  77. Wazniak, C.E., M.R. Hall, T.J.B. Carruthers, B. Sturgis, W.C. Dennison, and R.J. Orth. 2007. Linking water quality to living resources in a mid-Atlantic lagoon system, USA. Ecological Applications 17: S64–S78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wieben, C.M., and R.J. Baker. 2009. Contributions of nitrogen to the Barnegat Bay–Little Egg Harbor Estuary: Updated loading estimates. New Jersey, USA: West Trenton.Google Scholar
  79. Williams, M., B. Longstaff, C. Buchanan, R. Llanso, and W. Dennison. 2009. Development and evaluation of a spatially-explicit index of Chesapeake Bay health. Marine Pollution Bulletin 59: 14–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Fertig
    • 1
  • Michael J. Kennish
    • 1
  • Gregg P. Sakowicz
    • 1
  • Laura K. Reynolds
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations