2011 Progress Report: Interaction of Climate Change, Landuse and Invasive Species: Tests of Contrasting Management Scenarios for Coastal Communities

EPA Grant Number: R833838
Title: Interaction of Climate Change, Landuse and Invasive Species: Tests of Contrasting Management Scenarios for Coastal Communities
Investigators: Whitlatch, Robert B. , Osman, Richard W.
Institution: University of Connecticut , Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: April 1, 2008 through March 31, 2012
Project Period Covered by this Report: April 1, 2010 through March 31,2011
Project Amount: $595,852
RFA: Ecological Impacts from the Interactions of Climate Change, Land Use Change and Invasive Species: A Joint Research Solicitation - EPA, USDA (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Global Climate Change , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Ecosystems , Climate Change

Objective:

There are five objectives: (1) work with environmental managers and stakeholders to explore different scenarios for land use planning, development of coastal areas, habitat restoration, or other management issues in the context of climate change and invasive species; (2) conduct mesocosm experiments testing links between climate change and land use in altering the ability of invasive species to affect native communities; (3) conduct field experiments to assess temporal and/or spatial scales of potential efforts needed to effectively manage invasive species – goals include testing whether marina-scale or larger-scale eradication are needed to control future invasions and the timing in which management of invasive species is most effective; (4) conduct field experiments examining survival of key predators of invasive species in areas of different land use – if predators are limiting invasions of open coast habitats, it is important to understand what limits the distribution of these critical species; and (5) develop predictive models to assess alternative management strategies. Focus will be placed on integrating management needs with ecological predictions that allow managers to evaluate multiple stressors at different temporal and spatial scales in different types of coastal systems.

Progress Summary:

To date we have:

  • Conducted a project evaluation and planning workshop to review progress and develop strategies for future modeling efforts and their integration.
  • Participated in and presented our preliminary results at an EPA Program Workshop in Seattle, WA.
  • Established a project Management Advisory Board consisting of the following individuals: Mark Tedesco (Director, U.S. EPA Long Island Sound Office), Paul Stacey (Director of Planning and Standards, Bureau of Water Protection and Land Use, CT Department of Environmental Protection), Gary Wikfors (Scientist, NOAA-NMFS, Milford, CT), Adam Whelchel (Director of Conservation Science, The Nature Conservancy, CT Chapter), Beth Doran (Director, Long Island Sound Resource Cener, CT DEP), and Susan McNamara (Executive Director, Long Island Sound Foundation)
  • Conducted workshops with various Long Island Sound resource managers and stakeholders – August 4, 2008 and May 25, 2009 – to discuss management priorities and needs; broaden network with the managers/stakeholders; discuss project goals and outputs and how they can assist with management goals.
  • Met with shellfish, planning and conservation commissions – Towns of Groton, New London, Stonington, East Lyme/Waterford – to discuss local management needs and goals of the project.
  • Outreach activities related to the project included: (a) Interviews/articles: Connecticut National Public Radio, New London Day, Boston Globe; (b) featured segment on AquaKids Episode 18 (distributed to ~80M households nationwide; aired in Connecticut 24 Jan 2009, aired nationally week of 19 Jan 2009).
  • Constructed and tested a flow-through, environmentally controlled, large-scale mesocosm facility for conducting controlled experiments designed to examine the interactions of climate change, land use and invasive species on southern New England coastal habitats.
  • Used the mesocosm facility to conduct experiments examining the interactions of elevated seawater temperatures and nutrient additions on the growth and survival of native and non-native invertebrate species.

    Photograph of the mesocosm facility housed on UCONN's Avery Point Campus, Groton, CT.
    Photograph of the mesocosm facility housed on UCONN’s Avery Point Campus, Groton, CT.

  • Modifying and expanding the spatially explicit, hydrographic model developed by Dr. John Hamilton, a postdoctoral fellow with the PI. This model has been expanded to examine a larger geographic area, to include a greater diversity of species life-history characteristics that encompass the key threshold species and communities. Model output also has been modified to allow a greater flexibility in questions addressed and increased statistical rigor. Model input has been expanded to increase applicability to management decisions.
  • Conducted a series of field experiments to assess the effect of key predators (e.g., snails, crabs, seastars) on invasive species in areas of different coastal land use in southern New England.
  • Conducted a pilot study to assess the effectiveness of marina-scale or larger-scale eradication of non-native species as a method for controlling future invasions.

Part II. Progress Report

  1. Work Status and Progress

    Our research has focused on the following five objectives:

    1. Work with environmental managers and stakeholders to explore different scenarios for land use planning, development of coastal areas, habitat restoration, or other management issues in the context of climate change and invasive species.. We have established a project Management Advisory Board for the project consisting of the following individuals: Mark Tedesco (Director, U.S. EPA Long Island Sound Office), Paul Stacey (Retired Director of Planning and Standards, Bureau of Water Protection and Land Use, CT Department of Environmental Protection), Gary Wikfors (Scientist, NOAA-NMFS, Milford, CT), Adam Whelchel (Director of Conservation Science, The Nature Conservancy, CT Chapter), Beth Doran (Director, Long Island Sound Resource Center, CT DEP), and Susan McNamara (Executive Director, Long Island Sound Foundation). We have conducted three one-way workshops with various Long Island Sound resource managers and stakeholders – August 4, 2008, July 13, 2009, September 8, 2010 – to discuss management priorities and needs; broaden the network with the managers/stakeholders; and discuss project goals and outputs and how they can assist with management goals. In addition to these activities, we also have met with shellfish, planning and conservation commissions – Towns of Groton, New London, Stonington, East Lyme/Waterford – to discuss local management needs and goals of the project and receive input regarding commission needs and concerns. As part of our outreach activities related to the project, the PI has been interviewed by Connecticut National Public Radio, and articles related to the project have appeared in the New London Day and Boston Globe. The PI also was featured on a segment on AquaKids (Episode 18), which highlighted aspects of marine invasive species and factors influencing the distribution and effects on coastal ecosystems. The episode was distributed to approximately 80 million households nationwide
    2. Conduct mesocosm experiments testing links between climate change and landuse in altering the ability of invasive species to affect native communities.We constructed a large-scale mesocosm system at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point Campus in Groton, CT designed to address specifically the impacts of interacting environmental conditions (especially climate change) on multiple interacting benthic communities. The 12 mesocosms are 3 m diameter, 1.3 m tall insulated tanks. They are run as flow-through systems, receiving continuous raw sea water with turnover rates of 3-4 tank volumes per 24 hr. The system is designed to a) include multiple benthic habitats within each mesocosm, b) enable temperatures to be elevated 1-2 oC above ambient, c) manipulate one or more other environmental parameters (e.g., nutrients, pH), d) have these conditions maintained by an automated monitoring and control system, and e) maintain experimental conditions continuously for > 4 mo. The tanks are gently aerated using diffusers placed near the sediment-water interface to insure the water is well mixed. In our present experiments, heaters are used to continuously elevate seawater temperatures ~1-2oC above ambient conditions and nutrients are delivered using peristaltic pumps. Temperature and other experimental conditions (e.g., nutrients) are monitored and/or controlled via LABVIEW® software and National Instruments data acquisition modules (e.g., high impedance A/D converters to convert voltages from probes to temperature units). Other uncontrolled environmental parameters (e.g., salinity, dissolved oxygen, fluorescence) are routinely monitored in each tank using YSI (6000) sondes. Routine maintenance such as cleaning of tank walls is performed daily. In the present studies, the system has been successfully operated with sediment, rock, and eelgrass habitats simultaneously housed in each mesocosm, each with representative invertebrate fauna at natural densities (e.g., oysters, scallops, mussels, grazing gastropods, attached epifauna, small crustaceans) comprising both native and non-native species. We successfully completed two sets of experiments (June to October) and the temperature treatments significantly increased the growth of mussels, oysters and scallops and decreased the growth of littorines (Littorinia littorea). Elevated seawater temperatures also significantly reduced the growth and survival of seagrass (Zostera marina). A third experiment is currently in progress.
    3. Conduct field experiments to assess temporal and/or spatial scales of potential efforts needed to effectively manage invasive species. Goals of this objective include testing whether marina-scale or larger-scale eradication are needed to control future invasions and the timing in which management of invasive species is most effective. Because the invasive ascidian and bryozoan species within our system have short-lived larvae with limited dispersal, the spatial scale of their establishment and potential management should be small and amenable to be tested experimentally in the field. Given the high abundance of these invasive species in marinas, the well-defined and sometimes isolated nature of marinas, and the potential of making these structures sites for potential control measures, we conducted a pilot study at one marina to test the efficacy of our experimental protocol to examine the effectiveness of small- and large-scale removal of invasive ascidians in controlling their populations and their re-establishment in removal areas. Using marina and artificial pilings, we simulated three scales of invasive species removal and compared the reestablishment of invasive and native species among the three treatments. Two pilings were selected as the treatment piling. All organisms were removed by divers from each of these pilings. In the small scale treatment, all organisms were removed from all adjacent pilings within 5 m and in the large-scale treatment all organisms were removed from pilings within 20 m of the test piling. The test pilings were photographed prior to organism removal and at monthly intervals after the removals. In addition, five 100 cm2 PVC panels were attached to each piling to monitor recruitment and community development. These panels were examined microscopically every 2 wks and the abundances of all species quantified. Finally, an artificial piling with attached panels was placed ~300 m from the dock to measure the effects of complete removal and isolation on the reestablishment of invasive and native species. Preliminary results indicate that the experimental procedures can be successfully executed and that the approach can be applied to broader temporal and spatial scales.
    4. Conduct field experiments examining survival of key predators of invasive species in areas of different land use. If predators are limiting invasions of open coast habitats, it is important to understand what limits the distribution of these critical species. We have been conducting a series of field experiments which are designed to assess the effects of different types of predators on population and community structure of fouling assemblages. We are also examining the effect of different types of coastal land use patterns (e.g., urbanized, industrialized, relatively pristine) on the growth and survival of the predators and how these translate to impacts on the composition of fouling communities of different stages of development. Single species predators (e.g., crabs, snails, seastars) are added to field enclosures containing fouling communities that are 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks of age. Four replicates of each treatment are used, in addition of four control enclosures without the presence of the predators. Individual experiments are run for a period of 2 weeks and data on the survivorship and growth of the predators as well as changes in fouling community species abundance and community composition are recorded and compared to the controls. To date, we have examined the effects of five different predators: the snails Anachis spp and Mitrella lunata, the invasive crabs Hemigrapsus sanguineus and Carcinus maenus, the bloodstar Henricia sanguinolenta, grass shrimp (Palaemonetes spp.), mud crabs (e.g., Panopeus, Rithropanopeus), juvenile fish (cunners) and spider crabs (Libinia spp) and sea urchins (Arbacia punctulata). Results indicate the effects of most of the predators varies between species and that communities in the early stages of development (e.g., 1-2 weeks of ago) appear more susceptible to predation than communities in later stages of development (e.g., 4 weeks of age). Sea urchins and cunners are able to prey on species found in more well developed communities (e.g., 3-4 weeks of age).
    5. Develop predictive models to assess alternative management strategies. Focus has been placed on integrating management needs with ecological predictions that allow managers to evaluate multiple stressors at different temporal and spatial scales in different types of coastal systems. Presently, we are using a spatially-explicit hydrodynamic/larval transport model to explore the coexistence of four common epifaunal community states (mussels, invasive ascidians, native fauna, and the colonial non-native ascidian Diplosoma listerianum) within a defined local/regional system. Much of the research focuses on the Poquonnock estuary and outlying areas but it is being investigated in other types of systems, such as bays. The model depends on defining the life history of the different species and seeding populations within the defined space. Populations are confined to cells with appropriate habitat and cells are linked via larval recruitment. Tidal or other currents drive the transport of larvae which are produced by the local populations. Questions that have been addressed using this model include: 1. How does life history affect local and regional stability of different community types? Four different life history types were used, including a) the mussel Mytilus with long-lived adults (many years) with long-lived larvae (several weeks), b) a solitary ascidian, Styela with short-lived adults (~ 1 yr) and intermediate-lived larvae (~ 1 d), c) a colonial bryozoan Cryptosula, with long-lived adults and short-lived (< 1 h) larvae, and d) a colonial ascidian Botryllus with both short-lived adults and larvae. It was found that all species could expand their range throughout the system and that the local hydrodynamics and geography and where within the region a species initially colonized had a greater effect on spread than the species life history traits. Competition, predation, and local variation in these among habitats were not included in this modeling. 2. How does coastal modification - adding or decreasing habitat affect the different species? The results indicated that those species with longer-lived larvae, Mytilus and Styela increased more with increasing substrate. This suggests that coastal development such as the addition of suitable habitat (e.g. marinas, breakwaters) could shift thresholds among the different community states. 3. How will climate change affect invasive species? Our earlier studies have shown that many of the invasive species in this system reproduce earlier in years with warm winters while natives are not affected. We contrasted model outcomes for warm and cold years. In warm years, the spatial extent of the invasive species increased at the expense of the native species. When disturbance was included, this change was magnified with large changes occurring after each disturbance.

    A major effort over the remainder of the project will be to use this model to address more complex questions that involve greater spatial differences in habitat quality such as the presence and absence of predation or differences in disturbance frequency and magnitude among locations, a broader array of management scenarios, and community level processes. The model is also undergoing some modifications to make the output comparable with other modeling efforts.

  2. Key Personnel

    No changes. Dr. John Hamilton, a post-doctoral fellow working with the PI has continued to be key in modifying their spatially explicit, hydrographic model to address threshold dynamics in a management context.

  3. Expenditures

    No changes or revisions to budgets are expected. While the majority of costs associated with construction of the mesocosm facility were originally budgeted under “equipment”, many of the individual components for the facility (e.g., tanks) rather categorized as “supplies”. Therefore, some internal re-budgeting had to take place by moving some of the “equipment” funds to the “supplies” category to cover expenditures related to the mesocosm facility.

  4. 4. Quality Assurance

    All quality assurance issues related to the project are conforming to the originally submitted Quality Assurance Plan submitted shortly after notification that the proposal had been funded by the Agency.

  5. Results to Date

    Our accomplishments to date have been summarized above in the progress summary section. This also includes publications and presentations of our results.

  6. Planned Activities for the Next Reporting Period

    These have been summarized in the future activities section.

Future Activities:

Present efforts will continue and be expanded.  Activities planned include:

  • Conduct a Management Advisory Board workshop to evaluate the success of the project and its laboratory and field experiments and modeling efforts. This workshop will focus on project productivity including publications, presentations at national meetings, and outreach to the management community.
  • Finish additional controlled mesocosm experiment to examine the effects of elevated seawater and nutrient additions on benthic assemblages of native and non-native invertebrates associated with eelgrass, sand and rocky habitats.
  • Conclude a series of field experiments in areas of different coastal land use (e.g., residential, industrial, ‘pristine’) to assess the effectiveness of different predator guilds (e.g., crabs, snails, seastars, amphipods, shrimp) in controlling the growth and survival of native and non-native fouling assemblages.
  • Finish a series of field experiments to assess the effectiveness of marina-scale or larger-scale eradication of non-native species as a method for controlling future invasions.  Experiments will be conducted at two sites; one associated with degraded water conditions and one associated with less degraded water conditions.
  • Publication of project results. At the present stage, we anticipate published at least 12 peer-reviewed articles related to the project.  Three manuscripts have been submitted to peer-reviewed scientific journals (Marine Ecology Progress Series, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, and PLOS) and are currently under peer-review. Three additional manuscripts are in preparation and will be submitted for publication by the end of the calendar year.
  • The presentation of results at one or more international scientific meetings. At least three presentations will be given at the next Benthic Ecology Meetings and an invited presentation was recently given at he World Marine Biodiversity Conference held in Aberdeen, Scotland.
  • Expand specific project pages on existing web sites. At present the project is described in general terms. The additions will supply specific model results and provide links for researchers and managers to access the models.
  • Present model applications to local or regional managers. This may be done as a small forum or as a one-day workshop near the end of the project’s finish date


Journal Articles on this Report : 5 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 21 publications 8 publications in selected types All 7 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Munguia P, Osman R, Hamilton J, Whitlatch R, Zajac R. Changes in habitat heterogeneity alter marine sessile benthic communities. Ecological Applications 2011;21(3):925-935. R833838 (2011)
R833838 (Final)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: University of New Haven-Full Text PDF
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  • Abstract: Wiley-Abstract
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  • Journal Article Munguia P, Osman RW, Hamilton J, Whitlatch RB, Zajac RN. Modeling of priority effects and species dominance in Long Island Sound benthic communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series 2010;413:229-240. R833838 (2011)
  • Full-text: ResearchGate-Abstract & Full Text-PDF
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  • Abstract: Mendeley Publishing-Abstract
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  • Journal Article Osman, R.W., P. Munguia, R.B. Whitlatch, R.N. Zajac and J. Hamilton. Thresholds and multiple community states in marine fouling communities:integrating natural history with management strategies. Marine Ecology Progress Series 2010;413:277-289. R833838 (2011)
    R833838 (Final)
  • Full-text: Marine Ecology Progress Series-Full Text PDF
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  • Abstract: Marine Ecology Progress Series-Abstract
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  • Journal Article Reinhardt JF, Stefaniak LM, Hudson DM, Mangiafico J, Gladych R, Whitlatch RB. First record of the non-native light bulb tunicate Clavelina lepadiformis (Muller, 1776) in the northwest Atlantic. Aquatic Invasions 2010;5(2):185-190. R833838 (2010)
    R833838 (2011)
    R833838 (Final)
  • Full-text: Aquatic Invasions-Full Text PDF
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  • Abstract: Aquatic Invasions-Abstract
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  • Journal Article Westerman EL, Whitlatch R, Dijkstra JA, Harris LG. Variation in brooding period masks similarities in response to changing temperatures. Marine Ecology Progress Series 2009;391:13-19. R833838 (2008)
    R833838 (2009)
    R833838 (2010)
    R833838 (2011)
    R833838 (Final)
  • Full-text: MEPS-Full Text PDF
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  • Abstract: MEPS-Abstract
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  • Supplemental Keywords:

    climate change, land use, non-native species, southern New England, coastal habitats, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Environmental Chemistry, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Aquatic Ecosystem, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, environmental measurement, meteorology, socioeconomics, climate models, ecosystem indicators, aquatic ecosystems, environmental stress, coastal ecosystems, global climate models, invasive species, ecological models, climate model, ecosystem stress, land and water resources, Global Climate Change, atmospheric chemistry

    Relevant Websites:

    Team Benthos | Marine Science | University of Connecticut Exit
    Benthic Ecology Lab | Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Exit

    These web sites have or will have links to the current EPA supported research project and will be periodically updated to include recent findings.

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • Final Report