CISNet for the Neuse River Estuary, NC: A Program for Evaluating Nitrogen Driven Eutrophication Associated with Changing Land Use in a Coastal Watershed

EPA Grant Number: R826938
Title: CISNet for the Neuse River Estuary, NC: A Program for Evaluating Nitrogen Driven Eutrophication Associated with Changing Land Use in a Coastal Watershed
Investigators: Luettich Jr., Richard A. , Paerl, Hans , Pinckney, Jay
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001
Project Amount: $555,300
RFA: Ecological Effects of Environmental Stressors Using Coastal Intensive Sites (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Statistics , Water Quality , Aquatic Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Among estuarine and coastal water quality and fisheries habitat issues facing the Nation, none are as evident and of immediate concern as anthropogenically-driven eutrophication. The Neuse River Estuary has been the focus of recent outbreaks of nuisance algal blooms, hypoxia, toxicity and fish kills associated with declining water quality. In 1995 and 96 the Neuse attained the notoriety of being listed as one of the Nation's 20 most threatened rivers and in 1997 it was listed as one of the Nation's most polluted rivers, (American Rivers Foundation 1995-97). It is generally believed that increased nitrogen loading associated with human population growth and changes in land use in its water- and air-shed in the past two decades is responsible for these unwanted symptoms of eutrophication.

In response to mounting scientific evidence and public pressure, in 1989 the State of North Carolina designated the Neuse as "nutrient-sensitive" while in 1997 reductions in nitrogen loading and the development of a "nutrient response model" to be used as a tool for managing future nutrient loading were legislated. As a result of the legislation, a 30 per cent nitrogen reduction on both point and nonpoint sources over the next 5 years is being sought. Thus the Neuse represents an ideal "experimental" system for intensive monitoring and research over the coming decade because it presently exhibits clear indications of detrimental ecological responses to anthropogenic nutrient stresses and because a nutrient reduction plan will be implemented over this period of time that will provide a unique opportunity to observe the ecological responses to decreasing anthropogenic nutrient stress.

The objective of our CISNet proposal is to build upon the historical water quality data base that extends over the past 20 years in the Neuse River Estuary and to enhance and expand the monitoring and process based research that is currently ongoing in the Neuse. A number of these ongoing projects have been coordinated during the past year under the Neuse River Modeling and Monitoring Program, MODMON, which is being directed by the P.I.s.


To accomplish our objective, we propose to use CISNet funds to help with the cost of hydrographic, nutrient and phytoplankton sampling and analysis at 17 stations along the axis of the Neuse, to expand our atmospheric deposition sampling network in the Neuse basin, to maintain a current meter mooring to provide continuous measurement of near surface and near bottom water movement in the Neuse, to monitor waters adjoining the Open Grounds Farm (the largest row crop farm east of the Mississippi River) to determine its potential for nutrient loading of the Neuse and to manage and archive data that is coming out of the entire Neuse River Estuary monitoring and research effort.

Expected Results:

We expect the results of these coordinated efforts will be (1) a much clearer understanding of the processes that control ecological responses to anthropogenic nutrient stressors, (2) data identifying the loading and the response of the system during both the current, relatively high loading scenario and during the course of nutrient reductions, and (3) highly valuable data for calibration, verification and evaluation of a "nutrient response model" for the system that is presently under development for the State to help manage future nutrient loading to the Neuse. Ideally, such a model should be used in the framework of risk assessment and/or risk management to determine acceptable loading strategies for the system.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 82 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 19 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

estuary, precipitation, marine science, hydrography, monitoring, circulation, anoxia, hypoxia, phytoplankton., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Nutrients, Ecology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Chemistry, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Air Deposition, Southeast, Biology, Watersheds, environmental monitoring, risk assessment, coastal ecosystem, eutrophication, aquatic ecosystem, hydrological stability, ecological exposure, coastal watershed, estuaries, fish kills, meteorology, bioavailability, coastal zone, algal growth, coastal environments, CISNet Program, hypoxia, esturarine eutrophication, estuarine ecosystems, algal blooms, anoxia/hypoxia, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, North Carolina (NC), Neuse River Estuary, stress responses, atmospheric deposition, ecological response, land use, nitrogen

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report