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A synthesis of case studies from Narragansett Bay (RI/MA, USA) emphasizing implementation of the US Clean Water Act using adaptive management.
Schmidt, C., E. Monroy, M. Cantwell, J. King, AND C. Roman. A synthesis of case studies from Narragansett Bay (RI/MA, USA) emphasizing implementation of the US Clean Water Act using adaptive management. Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, PROVIDENCE, RI, 2020. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12311840
This case study details the adaptive management process used by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program to develop its State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed document and presents case studies to illustrate specific successes and next steps for each. The individual case studies highlight a collaborative approach to identify ecological indicators, define problems, and respond to large-scale environmental problems through ongoing adaptive management. The integrated adaptive management framework is intended to flow through all of its work and enable ongoing coordinated efforts by researchers, managers, industry, fisherman, cities, and other interests across the Narragansett Bay Watershed to address pressing and evolving concerns. The Narragansett Bay region has fundamentals in place to achieve substantial and lasting restoration and protection of the bay and the surrounding watershed. Successes and lessons learned in Narragansett Bay from processes, to research to management actions can be used to informed other estuary’s groups work on complex and challenging environmental issues. While the challenges ahead are substantial and numerous, the estuary program has the scientific expertise, public support, and commitment to meet them head on.
Over the last 40 years, Narragansett Bay has experienced significant water quality improvements in response to reductions in nitrogen, heavy metal and organic contaminants, and bacterial pathogen discharge. The sources of these pollutants stem from the long history of population growth and a manufacturing-based economy. These reductions were documented by decades of persistent research and are the product of implementing the Clean Water Act by cooperation among all levels of government, utilities commissions, industry, nonprofits, universities, and advocacy groups. Wastewater treatment facilities remain a significant nitrogen source to the bay and continuing evaluation will determine if further reductions are needed. Metals/organic contaminants in sediment remain at or below thresholds for negative biological impacts. In response to pathogen reductions, over 3,000 acres have been reclassified as approved for shellfish growing between 2010 and 2017. The watershed still faces significant challenges in addressing stormwater runoff of both nitrogen and pathogens, and legacy methylmercury contamination in fish. Changes in population, land use and climate change will need to be addressed as well. The highlighted case studies showcase the abilities of public and private entities to collaboratively identify indicators, define problems, track changes, and respond to watershed-scale problems through ongoing adaptive management. Widely sharing successes and lessons learned in Narragansett Bay – from processes to research to management actions – can inform other estuarine collaborative management efforts to address complex and challenging environmental issues.
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