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How does excessive nitrogen loading effect the health and resiliency of Long Island’s coastal ecosystems?

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How does excessive nitrogen loading effect the health and resiliency of Long Island’s coastal ecosystems? Christopher J. Gobler


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“Nitrogen is the critical limiting factor to primary producers in Long Island coastal marine waters” – Dr. John Ryther, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Science Magazine, 1971


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Population, Suffolk County, NY, USA Population New York City Long Island >25,000,000 lbs of nitrogen per year from human waste


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Septic tank Water table / aquifer In Suffolk County: 70% of homes have septic tanks or cesspools. ~70% of N loads come from septic tanks and cesspools. Loading of wastewater nitrogen to coastal waters


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Changes in groundwater nitrogen levels in Suffolk County 40% increase 200% increase Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources management plan, 2010


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N loads to Great South Bay from watershed ~70% of N entering Moriches and Shinnecock Bay is from wastewater (Gobler et al, in progress for NYSDOS). Kinney and Valiela, 2011 Septic tanks, cesspools Atmosphere Fertilizer


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4.8 4.8 2.8 2.8 3.1 2.4 3.0 Groundwater nitrogen concentrations, Eastern Bays Total N mg L-1 Moriches Bay Shinnecock Bay Quantuck Bay


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Groundwater N and buildings Total N mg L-1 Moriches Bay Shinnecock Bay Quantuck Bay


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Groundwater N and agriculture Total N mg L-1 Pine Barrens Moriches Bay Shinnecock Bay Quantuck Bay


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South shore bay nitrogen loads compared to other water bodies


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NYSDEC assessment of Long Island coastal waters Impaired Minor impacts No known impacts


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What impairments are brought about by excessive nitrogen loading? Loss of critical habitats: Eelgrass, salt marshes Low dissolved oxygen levels, hypoxia Acidification, low pH Macroalgal blooms: Sea lettuce, Ulva Toxic algal blooms: Red, rust, brown tides Loss or depletion of shellfisheries and finfisheries


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The vital role of salt marshes in coastal ecosystems and communities


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Salt marsh ecosystems


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Salt marshes protect coastlines Chris Bason, Delaware Center for the Inland Bays


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Salt marshes protect coastlines


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Healthy marsh Nitrogen loaded marsh “Coastal eutrophication as a driver of salt marsh loss”, Deegan et al 2012, Nature Dense, strong roots Nutrient weakened, roots


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Loss of wetlands on Long Island, since 1974 NYSDEC survey data Nassau County, North Shore Suffolk County, North Shore East end Suffolk County South Shore Nassau County South Shore


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Salt marsh loss, Jamaica Bay


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Flooding during Hurricane Sandy


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Flooding in Mastic – Shirley during Hurricane Sandy Salt marsh Salt marsh Each point is a home.


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Flooding in Mastic – Shirley, sea level rise Salt marsh Each point is a home. Flooding scenarios will worsen significantly with weakened or destroyed salt marshes. Salt marsh


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Eelgrass: Critical benthic habitat


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NYS seagrass, 1930 - 2030 NYSDEC Seagrass Taskforce Final Report, 2010; Suffolk County assessment, 2014 90% loss Extinction in NY


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Take a deep breath… Oxygen (O2) Carbon dioxide (CO2)


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Phytoplankton CH2O + O2 CO2 + H2O Respiration Nitrogen loading leads to low oxygen and high CO2 Nitrogen loading Consumed Produced


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Dissolved oxygen (mg L??) pCO2 (µatm) Long Island Sound, August 2013


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The Forge River, NY, USA


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Effects of high CO2 and low O2 on fish survival Larval Inland Silversides High CO2 Low O2 High CO2, low O2


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Samples for eelgrass genetic analyses Harmful algal blooms across Long Island PSP, DSP PSP, DSP Brown tide Cochlodinium Cochlodinium Cochlodinium PSP Brown tide Cochlodinium PSP, red tide DSP, red tide PSP PSP Toxic blue green algae Toxic blue greens Toxic blue greens Ulva Ulva Ulva DSP


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Samples for eelgrass genetic analyses Aureococcus ‘Brown tide’ Cochlodinium ‘Rust tide’ Alexandrium ‘Red tide – PSP’ Dinophysis ‘Red tide – DSP’ Enhanced nutrient loading more intense &/or toxic HABs Gobler et al 2012 Gobler et al 2011; Gobler and Sunda 2012 Hattenrath et al 2010 Hattenrath-Lehmann 2014 Microcystis ‘Blue green algae’ Harke and Gobler, 2013


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Alexandrium red tides and paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) Alexandrium Saxitoxin


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Presence of PSP-producing Alexandrium in NY: 2007-2013 = cells not detected = < 100 cells L-1 = > 1,000 cells L-1 = 100 - 1,000 cells L-1 **circles represent the highest observed densities at each site** Alexandrium found at 47 of 63 sites samples (75%)


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Waste water N “Sewage-derived nitrogen loading promotes intense and toxic Alexandrium blooms.”


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Nitrogen impacts on shellfish Landings of clams and scallops have declined 99% since 1980. Linkages to nitrogen driven HABs, habitat loss, and water quality degradation. Hard clam landings (bushels) in Great South Bay


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Conclusion: Excessive nitrogen loading leads to… Loss of critical habitats: Salt marshes, eelgrass Low dissolved oxygen levels, hypoxia Acidification, low pH Macroalgal blooms: Sea lettuce, Ulva Toxic algal blooms: Red, rust, brown tides Loss or depletion of shellfisheries and finfisheries


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