Response of the plankton community to changes in anthropogenic nutrients

Lead Investigator: Dr. Nicole Millette
Affiliation: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Funding Source: Woods Hole Sea Grant

High inputs of nutrients, specifically nitrogen, is one of the major issues impacting Waquoit Bay and this projects ultimate goal is to help environmental managers predict how any future efforts to reduce nitrogen input could affect water quality and the entire ecosystem in the Bay. This project aims to improve our understanding of how plankton, both zooplankton and phytoplankton, in Waquoit Bay respond to changes in nutrient concentrations.

We will be tracking changes in the plankton community composition and abundance relative to shifts in nutrient concentrations to analyze how quickly changes in nutrient inputs impact Waquoit Bay. A unique aspect of this project is the added focus on mixotrophs, a type of plankton that can photosynthesize and ingest prey. Mixotrophs are a potentially large portion of the plankton community, under certain conditions, and the study of how mixotrophs respond to changes in nutrient concentrations will provide a more complete understanding of how all plankton are affected by variability in nutrients.

Nicole will join the Bay Watchers group during their planned sampling from May through September in 2018 and 2019. She plans to have some of the Bay Watchers help with the identification and enumeration of the phytoplankton samples using the WBNERR facilities.

Microbial Community Composition of Permeable Reactive Barriers – Who Is Really Doing the Work?

Jen BowenPIs:  Jennifer Bowen, UMASS-Boston

Ken Foreman, MBL Ecosystems Center

Funding: MIT Seagrant

Description: Permeable Reactive Barriers (PRBs) are currently being tested at the Waquoit Bay Reserve as a potential partial mitigation strategy for nutrient pollution. The barriers are designed to remove nitrogen by promoting microbially-mediated denitrification but there has been no examination of the microbial community that is responsible for the removal of the nitrogen and no attempt to understand how those microbial communities might respond to future environmental change.  This project will use molecular biology to examine how the barriers, and the periodic inundation of seawater, alter the structure and function of the microbial community. This information will help determine the best placement of the barriers to maximize their effectiveness.  Understanding how the microbial communities in the two barriers differ and under what environmental conditions the denitrifying bacteria thrive will help to guide future barrier construction, particular in the context of rising sea levels.

Multi-Cropping Shellfish and Macroalgae for Business and Bioextraction

Scott plus algae compressedPI: Scott Lindell, Scientific Aquaculture Program, MBL. Funding: WHOI-Seagrant
Description: Nutrient enrichment from septic systems is one of the most pressing coastal problems on Cape Cod. Towns are facing staggering costs for sewering and other solutions. This project aims to investigate whether a native seaweed, Gracilaria tikvahiae, can be co-farmed together with oysters to both soak up nutrients and produce a marketable crop.

Nitrogen Fluxes to Waquoit Bay via Groundwater Discharge: Identifying End Member Concentrations

meaganPI: Meagan Gonneea, MIT / WHOI Joint Program, PhD Candidate
Advisor: Matthew Charette, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Funding: NERRS Graduate Research Fellowship at Waquoit Bay NERR (current)

As groundwater flows to the coast, it meets and mixes with seawater. Mixing between these two water bodies creates a dynamic region-the coastal aquifer – where nutrients are chemically and biologically transformed. The fate of nutrients from development is a key issue in coastal areas like Cape Cod so understanding the processes in this area is of great importance.  The mixing zone beneath Waquoit Bay was monitored for three years to observe how it changes with different seasons and responds to climate events such as the 2009-10 El Nino.

The Impact of Nitrogen-loading on Salt Marsh Greenhouse Gas Fluxes

DSC_0125PIs:  Serena Moseman-Valtierra, University of Rhode Island, Jianwu Tang, MBL Ecosystems Center, Kevin Kroeger, USGS-Woods Hole Science Center,
Funding: MIT Seagrant
The general goal for the project is to measure potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and net CO2 uptake in coastal wetlands under a range of realistic nitrogen (N) loads and inundation (sea) levels. By meeting this goal, we aim to improve the information with which managers and policy makers can maintain and maximize ecosystem productivity, reduce harmful feedbacks of climate, and assess the potential for these ecosystems to enter C markets.

We will examine how GHG emissions from salt marshes vary along an existing gradient of anthropogenic N loading in Waquoit Bay, MA (WB-NERR). Further, we will test for relationships between N loads to the marshes and plant productivity. To investigate the influence of anticipated future increases in sea level, we will use existing gradients in marsh soil elevation (and therefore a gradient in soil water saturation and in frequency and duration of soil inundation) as a space-for-time substitution simulating future inundation of soils.

Carbon Management in Coastal Wetlands: Quantifying Carbon Storage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Tidal Wetlands to Support Development of a Greenhouse Gas Protocol and Economic Assessment

wetlandsProject Lead: Alison Leschen, Waquoit Bay Reserve Manager
Collaborative Lead: Tonna-Marie Rogers, Waquoit Bay Coastal Training Program Coordinator
PIs: Jianwu Tang, MBL Ecosystems Center, Kevin Kroeger, USGS-Woods Hole Science Center, Neil K. Ganju, USGS-Woods Hole Science Center, Serena Moseman-Valtierra, University of RI, Omar Abdul-Aziz, Florida International Univ., Stephen Emmett-Mattox, Restore America’s Estuaries, Igino Emmer, Silvestrum, Stephen Crooks, Consultant to RAE, Pat Megonigal, Smithsonian ERC, Thomas Walker, Manomet CCS, Chris Weidman, Waquoit Bay Reserve Research Coordinator,
Funding: NERRS Science Collaborative

Increasing atmospheric concentrations of three major greenhouse gases (GHG) are the main drivers of climate change. Efforts to ameliorate rising levels of GHG include the protection and restoration of ecosystems that constitute major carbon (C) sinks and minor sources of CH4 and N2O emissions. Tidal marshes are prime candidates for such efforts as their sediments display  high C sequestration. Loss of wetlands through human impacts such as land conversion, sediment supply disruption, nutrient loading, and with sea level rise, reduces future sequestration capacity and places at risk stores of C that built up over past centuries. Improved management of coastal C and nitrogen (N), based upon sound science, is a critical first step towards mitigation of climate change and management of coastal ecosystems. Management must address N loading that has the dual impact of 1) contributing to climate change through production of N2O, and 2) reducing production of root and soil matter by plants which can decrease the C sequestration capacity and resilience of marshes to sea level rise. Recognition of the importance of coastal marine systems in terms of C storage has led to national and international efforts to place monetary value on preserving or restoring the “blue carbon” in those systems, analogous to the value placed on forests. The barrier to incorporation of tidal wetlands into C markets is the absence of agreed upon GHG offset protocols that set guidelines for monitoring and verification requirements for wetlands projects, and a lack of data and knowledge regarding C and GHG fluxes in wetlands to support model development.

The project goals are to provide scientific information that can inform both C and N management as well as wetlands protection and restoration strategies for supporting development of policy frameworks and market-based mechanisms to reduce GHG.

Project website:

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