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The changing ecology of Narragansett Bay as told by habitat
Cicchetti, G. AND E. Shumchenia. The changing ecology of Narragansett Bay as told by habitat. New England Estuarine Research Society (NEERS) Spring Meeting, Portsmouth, NH, April 26 - 28, 2018.
This presentation is an ecological discussion of habitat changes across Narragansett Bay from 1700 to present, and the human stressors that drove those changes in different areas of the Bay. The purpose is to present EPA science and to promote an active AED project related to an EPA Office of Water bioassessment approach (the Biological Condition Gradient). The audience will be primarily be scientists and the venue is a local scientific meeting. There are no policy or regulatory implications of the presentation.
Narragansett Bay has changed in many ways over millennia due to natural and human forces, and the rate of this change increased greatly after European colonization. We evaluated distributions of three stressors and four habitats in eight subdivisions of the Bay for aspects of ecology that have changed since 1700, as data allowed. Specific areas within the Bay have responded differently to human impacts, and we explored ecological change from north to south and east to west. We compared stressor and habitat changes in the Providence River system to those in the Barrington-Palmer-Warren River system, about 6 miles away. We examined distributions of seagrass, benthos, salt marsh, and shellfish in different Bay regions over time to compare historic changes to recent conditions. While higher levels of nutrients and other stressors in the northern Bay moved distributions of valued benthic and seagrass habitats southward for 200 years, we suggest that the last 20 years of data may show these distributions now moving northward. Bay-wide, salt marshes experienced high historic losses and a few recent decades of moderate loss, but are now in steep decline due to the combined effects of several new stressors. Monitoring habitats in the next five to ten years will be vital for understanding and managing these most recent changes in Bay ecology over time and in different regions of the Bay.