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Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

A New Approach to Assessing the Anthropogenic Impact on an Urbanized Estuary: Sediment Record of Pre-historical and Historical Environmental Change in Narragansett Bay, RI, USA

EPA Grant Number: FP917201
Title: A New Approach to Assessing the Anthropogenic Impact on an Urbanized Estuary: Sediment Record of Pre-historical and Historical Environmental Change in Narragansett Bay, RI, USA
Investigators: Salacup, Jeffrey M.
Institution: Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Just, Theodore J.
Project Period: September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010)
Research Category: Fellowship - Global Change , Academic Fellowships

Description:

Objective:

Anthropogenic climate change and cultural eutrophication can lead to changes in primary and secondary productivity in impacted coastal and estuarine ecosystems such as Narragansett Bay, RI. Specifically, interactions between increasing sea-surface temperatures and nutrient loads may conspire to increase the likelihood of summer hypoxia with deleterious effects for local ecosystems and economies. Given projections for continued global warming and changes in local wastewater treatment, a better understanding of spatial and temporal responses of this system to past disturbances is critical to future management decisions. This study aims to investigate such modern ecosystem change within the context of the past using sediment archives recovered from Narragansett Bay, RI.

Synopsis:

Anthropogenic climate change and cultural eutrophication can lead to changes in primary and secondary productivity in impacted coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Specifically, interactions between increasing sea-surface temperatures and nutrient loads may conspire to increase the likelihood of summer hypoxia with deleterious effects for local ecosystems. This study aims to investigate such modern ecosystem change within the context of the past using sediments recovered from Narragansett Bay, RI.

Approach:

This research will employ sediment cores in the reconstruction of approximately five well-dated multi-proxy records. Environmental and ecological conditions will be reconstructed employing a suite of paleoceanographic proxies to include organic carbon, nitrogen, alkenones concentration and unsaturation ratios, hopanoid and steroid biomarker abundances, and d15N and d13C in organic matter. In well-dated cores, this suite of measurements will provide insight into the complex and dynamic behavior of Narragansett Bay productivity, eutrophication, water quality, and habitability in response to environmental perturbation.

Expected Results:

This proposal directly addresses issues critical to the science of global change, particularly climate variability and change in the United States and its impacts on the quality of water, ecosystems, human health, and socio-economic systems. The productivity and environmental records produced in this study will shed light on how different parts of the Bay respond to environmental and anthropogenic forcings beyond that available from the relatively short instrumental record. The results of this study will allow the integration of our relatively limited understanding of Narragansett Bay into the past millennium, providing policy and management officials with a strong foundation on which to base future resource decisions. The health of Narragansett Bay directly and intimately impacts the health of the neighboring human, and non-human, communities.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection:

A spatially and temporally expanded understanding of the behavior of Narragansett Bay in the face of past environmental change will allow for the scientifically informed management of Bay resources in the future. The dependence of the local human and non-human communities on the Bay’s existence as a productive fishery, haven for biological diversity, and source of recreation hinges directly on the environmental health of the Bay and will benefit directly from this work.

Supplemental Keywords:

climate change, eutrophication, estuaries, biomarkers,

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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