EPA Science Inventory

Imprint of the Past: Ecological History of Greenwich Bay, Rhode Island

Citation:

PESCH, C. G., E. J. Shumchenia, M. Charpentier, AND M. C. PELLETIER. Imprint of the Past: Ecological History of Greenwich Bay, Rhode Island. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-12/050, 2012.

Description:

Because environmental problems are often caused by an accumulation of impacts over several decades or even centuries, it is necessary to look at the environmental history of an area to understand what happened, and why, before solutions can be devised. This case study of Greenwich Bay, a small sub-estuary of Narragansett Bay, describes the connection between the development in the watershed and the ecology of the bay. We divided the cultural history of the Greenwich Bay area into five time periods (Pre-Colonial, before 1650; Colonial, c. 1650 to c. 1750; Maritime, c. 1730 to c. 1820; Industrial, c. 1800 to c. 1945; and Suburbanization, c. 1945 to present) and described the ecological effects associated with each. During the first three periods, ecological effects occurred but were minimal. Major ecological effects occurred in the last 150 years. During the Industrial Period, the increase in people and industries resulted in bacterial pollution and shellfish bed closures, chemical pollution, and obstruction of anadramous fish runs by dams. During the Suburbanization Period, the bay was affected by more bacterial pollution, increased nitrogen input, eutrophication, low oxygen, fish kills, and loss of eelgrass. This historical analysis of Greenwich Bay provides an opportunity to inform the scientists, managers, and citizens about the consequences of development, and gives environmental managers a foundation on which to make informed decisions for the future.

Purpose/Objective:

Because environmental problems are often caused by an accumulation of impacts over several decades or even centuries, it is necessary to look at the environmental history of an area to understand what happened, and why, before solutions can be devised. This case study of Greenwich Bay, a small sub-estuary of Narragansett Bay, describes the connection between the development in the watershed and the ecology of the bay. We divided the cultural history of the Greenwich Bay area into five time periods (Pre-Colonial, before 1650; Colonial, c. 1650 to c. 1750; Maritime, c. 1730 to c. 1820; Industrial, c. 1800 to c. 1945; and Suburbanization, c. 1945 to present) and described the ecological effects associated with each. During the first three periods, ecological effects occurred but were minimal. Major ecological effects occurred in the last 150 years. During the Industrial Period, the increase in people and industries resulted in bacterial pollution and shellfish bed closures, chemical pollution, and obstruction of anadramous fish runs by dams. During the Suburbanization Period, the bay was affected by more bacterial pollution, increased nitrogen input, eutrophication, low oxygen, fish kills, and loss of eelgrass. This historical analysis of Greenwich Bay provides an opportunity to inform the scientists, managers, and citizens about the consequences of development, and gives environmental managers a foundation on which to make informed decisions for the future.

URLs/Downloads:

CP IMPRINT OF THE PAST - GB.PDF   (PDF,NA pp, 4391 KB,  about PDF)

Imprint of the Past: Ecological History of Greenwich Bay, Rhode Island

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PUBLISHED REPORT/REPORT)
Start Date: 09/01/2012
Completion Date: 09/01/2012
Record Last Revised: 03/13/2014
Record Created: 08/28/2012
Record Released: 08/28/2012
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 245835

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

ATLANTIC ECOLOGY DIVISION

MONITORING AND ASSESSMENT BRANCH