CISNet: Molecular to Landscape-Scale Monitoring of Estuarine Eutrophication

EPA Grant Number: R826944
Title: CISNet: Molecular to Landscape-Scale Monitoring of Estuarine Eutrophication
Investigators: Morris, James T. , Fletcher, Madilyn , Jensen, John , Lewitus, Alan , Noble, Peter , Porter, Dwayne
Institution: University of South Carolina at Columbia
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001 (Extended to September 30, 2002)
Project Amount: $579,650
RFA: Ecological Effects of Environmental Stressors Using Coastal Intensive Sites (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Environmental Statistics , Ecosystems


Research is proposed that will use and enhance long-term, intensive monitoring program in the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to address basic and practical questions about the effects of eutrophication on the structure and function of estuaries. Ongoing data collection will be linked with novel measurements of phytoplankton and bacterial community structure, made possible by advances in molecular biology and analytical chemistry, and to remotely sensed indices of wetland productivity and change at the landscape-scale. The biotic change indicators that will be utilized in this research are practical, have broad application, and rely on technologies that could be widely adopted. The close proximity of North Inlet and Winyah Bay estuaries and the extreme differences in nutrient loading, nutrient dynamics, and productivity that they display make them ideal natural laboratories for studying estuarine eutrophication. It is expected that nutrient loading affects the structure and regulation of estuarine food webs and, consequently, that regulation of North Inlet and Winyah Bay food webs will differ. The proposed research will address 3 hypotheses related to that question: 1) the composition and abundance of Winyah Bay and North Inlet bacterial and phytoplankton communities will differ and will vary as functions of nutrient availability; 2) bacterial and phytoplankton communities form associations which vary in complexity and degree of coupling as a function of nutrient availability, and 3) at a landscape-scale, remote sensing of the concentration of chlorophyll in emergent wetland vegetation will provide a quantitative index of wetland condition and will demonstrate differences in condition between North Inlet and Winyah Bay.


Analyses of ribosomal RNA from bacterial communities and HPLC analyses of pigments from phytoplankton communities, verified by direct counts and bioassay experiments, will be used to monitor community structure. These analyses will be conducted biweekly for 3 years from samples collected from North Inlet and Winyah Bay, and the results will be correlated with water quality data gathered from ongoing projects. Biannual measurements made with a handheld spectroradiometer of radiation reflected from wetland plant canopies (Spartina alterniflora) will be correlated with canopy chlorophyll content and photosynthesis to calibrate remote sensor data (Landsat Thematic Mapper) that will be used to monitor the condition of wetlands within North Inlet and Winyah Bay.

Expected Results:

Our ultimate goal is to improve the value of the current monitoring program by adding additional monitoring parameters that establish links between water quality data and trophic activities.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 63 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 15 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watersheds, estuary, marine, ecosystem, scaling, aquatic, environmental chemistry, marine science, biology, ecology, monitoring, microbiology, microbial ecology, bacteria., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Nutrients, Ecology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Chemistry, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Biology, Watersheds, anthropogenic stress, aquatic ecosystem, coastal ecosystem, eutrophication, hydrological stability, nutrient supply, nutrient transport, remote sensing, ecological exposure, monitoring, scaling, chlorophyl, CISNet, wetland vegetation, estuaries, bacteria monitoring, coastal zone, remote sensing data, landscape-scale monitoring, esturarine eutrophication, phytoplankton nutrient, CISNet Program, phytoplankton dynamics, landscape monitoring, analytical chemistry, molecular monitoring, aquatic ecosystems, nutrient cycling, water quality, ecosystem health, stress responses, estuarine food web

Relevant Websites:

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report