Sea Grant Awards Three Research Grants Under Long Island Sound Study

Sea Grant Awards Three Research Grants Under the Long Island Sound Study

Long Island Sound viewed from Stratford Point, CT.
Sea Grant Awards Funds for Three New Research Projects for Long Island Sound photo of Stratford Point by Amy Mandelbaum

Contacts: Robert Burg, Long Island Sound Study, 203-977-1546
Barbara Branca, New York Sea Grant, 631-632-6956
Peg VanPatten, Connecticut Sea Grant, 860-405-9128

The Sea Grant programs of Connecticut and New York have awarded more than $676,000 in Long Island Sound Study research grants to three projects that will look into some of the most serious threats to the ecological health of Long Island Sound, a water body designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an Estuary of National Significance. The Long Island Sound Study, conducted under the EPA’s National Estuary Program, is a cooperative effort between the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York to restore and protect the Sound and its ecosystems.This suite of projects addresses the cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon through the Sound and its surrounding tributaries and wetlands.

Title: How will sea level rise-driven shifts in wetland vegetation alter ecosystem services?

University of Connecticut: Beth Lawrence, Ashley Helton, Chris Elphick

Total: $317,828 plus $79,458 in matching funds

Coastal marshes that fringe Long Island Sound are the dynamic ecosystems between land and sea that provide essential “ecosystem services” to surrounding communities such as improved water quality, carbon removal to the sediment, and protection from storm surge. However, as these valuable wetlands are increasingly altered by rising seas, invasive species and increased salinity, there are changes in carbon and nitrogen cycling as well as in plant species composition. Research conducted by Beth Lawrence and her team at the University of Connecticut will increase our understanding and improve coastal management by explicitly quantifying the direct and indirect effects of sea level rise on carbon and nitrogen cycling. The results will be extended to a broad audience by developing a series of questions and problems for high school students that integrates a case study of how sea level rise is altering coastal ecosystems associated with Long Island Sound.

Title: Nutrient and Carbon Fluxes through Long Island Sound, Linking River Sources to Impacted Areas

The University of Connecticut: Michael Whitney and Penny Vlahos

Total: $278,851

In Long Island Sound, the quality of its waters and health of its biological communities are strongly influenced by the concentration and movement of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the water.  Both nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as carbon enter the Sound through rivers and are consumed and transformed along the way. University of Connecticut marine scientists Michael Whitney and Penny Vlahos will study sources, movement, and fates of these materials, as well as their flow from wastewater treatment plants, to understand the input from river sources and impacted areas. This will help determine the nature of sources and whether certain locations can store carbon. The results will inform management decisions for the Sound.

Title: Sources and fluxes of excess nitrogen supplied by fresh submarine groundwater discharge (FSGD) to Long Island Sound (LIS)

Stony Brook University: Troy Rasbury, Kirk Cochran and Henry Bokuniewicz

Total: $119,776 plus $39,775 in matching funds

Fresh submarine groundwater discharge along Long Island’s north shore is an important source of nitrogen loading into the Sound. In some locations this discharge supplies as much nitrogen to bays as a local river and about 10 to 40 times as much as a local wastewater treatment plant. However, identifying whether the nitrogen source is natural or from a synthetic source (such as fertilizer) is difficult. Researchers from Stony Brook University will use a unique combination of isotope tracers to fingerprint the sources of nitrogen to groundwater as well as processes that affect nitrogen concentrations. The team will be able to quantify atmospheric, septic, animal waste, and fertilizer sources of new nitrogen entering the Sound via groundwater discharge in three “hot spots” with varying land use: a residential area/ golf course, a park near a sewage treatment plant, and an agricultural area. Such source information is critical in developing management strategies to reduce nitrogen loadings.

“These three projects will increase our understanding of Long Island Sound and directly support wise protection and restoration of its valuable resources” said Mark Tedesco, director of the U.S. EPA Long Island Sound Office, which manages the Long Island Sound Study partnership, and which provided the majority of funds for the Sea Grant-administered research projects. Since 2000, the Long Island Sound grant program has awarded more than 30 grants to scientists whose work helps meet the needs of decision-makers to improve the management of Long Island Sound.

“With these awards, the Connecticut and New York Sea Grant programs continue their partnership with EPA and universities in the region to document and better understand how Long Island Sound works, and how its workings will likely to be affected by a variety of factors, from attempts to reduce human nutrient inputs to the Sound to rising sea levels,” said Bill Wise, director of the New York Sea Grant Program.

“It is exciting to see different researchers using complementary approaches that, together, lead to an overall better understanding of the sources and sinks of nutrients. There is a lot of creativity in the academic communities that can contribute to a healthy Long Island Sound.” said Sylvain De Guise, director of the Connecticut Sea Grant program.

A portion of the research funding comes from the two Sea Grant programs. Connecticut Sea Grant, based at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, and New York Sea Grant, based at Stony Brook University (SUNY), belong to the National Sea Grant College Program network, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To arrange an interview with a researcher, please use one of the contacts listed.  For descriptions of each research project, visit any of these web sites:

www.longislandsoundstudy.net

www.seagrant.sunysb.edu

http://seagrant.uconn.edu

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