Author: jab10018

4 sites in running for nomination to national estuarine reserve

One of three sites in Long Island Sound or a fourth on the lower Connecticut River will soon be chosen for nomination as a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).

The latest step in a process that began earlier this year took place on Aug. 17, when about 20 experts from academia, state agencies and environmental groups came together at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. The project is being led by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, in coordination with UConn and Connecticut Sea Grant.

“We want to submit a final nomination package to NOAA by the end of December or early January,” Kevin O’Brien, DEEP environmental analyst who led the meeting, told the group.

The Connecticut site chosen would join a national system of 29 reserves designated for research, monitoring, education and increased protection. Run as a partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the states, NERR sites exist in all coastal states except Connecticut and Louisiana.  About 1.3 million acres are currently part of NERR sites in 20 coastal and two Great Lakes states.

During the meeting, the group reviewed the detailed scoring criteria and initial scores given on the assets the four sites: one each in the western, central and eastern Sound, and the Connecticut River from Haddam Neck to the mouth.

Over the next month, the group will complete scoring of the sites, assessing their environmental, research, stewardship, educational and management values, and write a draft nomination report by early fall for the chosen site.

A public informational meeting on the selected site and the importance of the NERR program to Connecticut will be scheduled for late October to early November. That will be followed by a public comment meeting in late November and an opportunity for the public to submit written comments.

The four sites under consideration are:

  • Western Long Island Sound Region from Darien to Milford, encompassing state and federal properties including the Norwalk Islands, Great Meadows, the Milford Point Unit of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, plus Sherwood Island State Park and Wheeler Wildlife Area.
  • Central Long Island Sound Region from Madison to Westbrook, including Hammonasset Beach State Park/Natural Area Preserve, the Hammock River Wildlife Management Area and Duck Island Wildlife Area.
  • Eastern Long Island Sound Region from Waterford to Stonington, including Bluff Point State Park/Natural Area Preserve/Coastal Reserve, Haley Farm State Park and the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area.
  • Connecticut River Region from Old Saybrook and Old Lyme to Haddam Neck, encompassing the upper freshwater component including Haddam Neck Wildlife Area and Machimoodus State Park; and the lower brackish component including the Ferry Point Wildlife Area, Great Island Wildlife Area, Lord Cove Wildlife Area, Nott Island Wildlife Area and Ragged Rock Creek Wildlife Area.

For information, visit: www.ct.gov/DEEP/NERR, or the most recent issue of Sound Outlook: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Sound-Outlook---June-July-2017.html?soid=1104335014923&aid=fdnOdhO1jjc; or contact Kevin O’Brien at: kevin.obrien@ct.gov.

Kevin O'Brien shows maps of proposed NERR areas at meeting on Aug. 17, 2017, at UConn Avery Point.

Kevin O\'Brien, environmental analyst at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, shows maps of proposed NERR sites in Long Island Sound during a meeting Aug. 17, 2017, at UConn Avery Point. (photo by Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant)

Group discusses the next steps in nominating a NERR site in Long Island Sound during a meeting on Aug. 17, 2017, at UConn Avery Point.

Group discusses the next steps in nominating a NERR site in Long Island Sound during a meeting on Aug. 17, 2017, at UConn Avery Point. (photo by Judy Benson / Connecticut Sea Grant)

Harmful Algae: A Compendium Desk Reference (executive summary)

By Tessa Getchis and Sandra Shumway.
This 16-page booklet provides a summary of the key issues and state of the science pertaining to harmful algal blooms as presented in “Harmful Algal Blooms: A Compendium Desk Reference,” to improve management and response. Print copies are available from Connecticut Sea Grant by contacting: andrea.kelly@uconn.edu.

Private landowners hold key to future of coastal marshes

Vulnerable marshes, vulnerable homes

photo of Fence Creek marsh in Madison, Conn.

Fence Creek in Madison, Conn., is one of many tidal marshes near neighborhoods vulnerable to sea level rise. (Photo by Chris Elphick.)

While popular with conservation groups, coastal easements that prevent development in order to protect marshland are not favored by property owners, according to a new study by the University of Connecticut and Virginia Tech. Since private landowners will be critical partners in efforts to save coastal marshes in the face of climate change and rising sea levels, identifying the best strategies will be essential to achieving success, the research shows. The study was funded by Connecticut Sea Grant, UConn, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation Environmental Fellowship.
The findings, based on the results of surveys conducted in 2015 of 1,002 owners of Connecticut coastal properties, suggest that relying on education about sea level rise and the ecosystem benefits of marshes alone will not protect land from changes brought about by storms and climate change. Landowners in the study harbor skeptical attitudes about granting easements, based on concerns that they will be offered a fair price in exchange for keeping land as open space where marshes can migrate as seas rise. They also worry that environmental organizations that obtain the easements “might not act fairly or transparently in their efforts to encourage tidal marsh migration,” the researchers write in an article published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of Aug. 7.
The study, conducted by Christopher Field and Chris Elphick of UConn and Ashley Dayer of Virginia Tech, emphasizes that strategies that assume marshes will migrate inland won’t work without the cooperation of private landowners. Whether they decide to leave room for marshes to move inland or instead build seawalls that harden shorelines means either saving tidal wetlands and their many ecological, economic and recreational benefits, or losing them altogether. In the study area alone – the Connecticut coast – there are an estimated 30,000 landowners in the zone projected to become tidal marsh by 2100, and millions of people globally live near tidal marshes. The survey was conducted following two major storms – Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 – so the results are a valid measure of whether that experience influences attitudes about taking action to lessen future risks. While landowners whose properties flooded during the hurricane were 1.4 times more likely to say they may be willing to sell their vulnerable land outright, this result may overstate what people would actually do. For example, although the study did not investigate past landowner behavior, the researchers note that fewer than 100 properties in the study area were acquired during federal buyout programs implemented after the recent hurricanes, though many more were eligible.
If land protection agreements with nonprofits and government agencies aren’t the answer, what offers more promise for the future of marshes? Surveyed landowners responded favorably to the idea of restrictive covenants, even though they typically do not include financial incentives. Under restrictive covenants, an entire neighborhood agrees to forgo building seawalls and other shoreline armoring structures. These armoring strategies can be damaging in the long run, because they can divert erosion and flooding to adjoining properties and natural habitats. Coastal landowners also liked the notion of future interest agreements. Under these programs, private landowners agree to accept fair market value of their property at the time of signing if future flooding reduces the value by more than half. That future flooding would allow dry upland to turn into coastal marsh.
The article, “Landowner behavior can determine the success of conservation strategies for ecosystem migration under sea-level rise,” offers broad implications for how to best design programs to mitigate other climate change effects. Field, a post-doctoral fellow in the UConn Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was lead author of the study. Elphick is an associate professor of conservation biology in UConn EEB and the Center of Biological Risk, and Dayer is assistant professor of human dimensions at Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.
The primary contact for the researchers is: Christopher Field: Christopher.field@uconn.edu.
Prof. Chris Elphick can be reached at: chris.elphick@uconn.edu (best option); cell: (860) 985-4347
Prof. Dayer can be reached through the Virginia Tech communications office: Heidi Ketler, Interim Director of Communications, College of Natural Resources and Environment, (540) 231-6157.
For copy of the article, send a request to: pnasnews@nas.edu.

Connecticut’s ocean economy grew in 2014, report shows

Connecticut’s ocean economy grew by nearly 1 percent during 2014, with the tourism and recreation sector employing the most workers, and the ship and boat building sector contributing the highest value in terms of wages, according to a new federal report.
The report, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management, shows employment growth nationally in the ocean economy of 2.5 percent from 2013 to 2014 and growth in goods and services of 15.6 percent from 2007 to 2014. The ocean economy includes living resources, marine construction, marine transportation, offshore mineral extraction, ship and boat building and tourism and recreation.
State-specific information in the report shows Connecticut’s ocean economy employed about 51,000 people, generating $2 billion in wages and $4.2 billion in gross domestic product. That’s just over 3 percent of the state’s total employment, about 2 percent of its wages and 1.7 percent of its GDP, according to the report.
Most of the ocean economy workforce was based in Fairfield County, in tourism and recreation-related businesses, according to the report. New London County, where submarine builder Electric Boat is located, supplied the largest proportion of the ocean economy GDP. The ship and boat building sector statewide contributed $1.4 billion of Connecticut’s total gross domestic products, the report found.
The report’s findings highlight the importance of the ocean economy to Connecticut. Although it is the nation’s third smallest state in land area, and 29th in population, it ranks 15th in ocean economy employment and 14th in GDP among the 30 coastal states.
More information can be found on the Economics: National Ocean Watch data page.

New guide to decapod larvae available

“Keys to the Larvae of Common Decapod Crustaceans in Long Island Sound,” a 48-page guide to the early life stages of lobsters, crabs and shrimp, was published this spring by Connecticut Sea Grant and Project Oceanology. Written by Howard “Mickey” Weiss, Project O founder and senior scientist, it includes black-and-white drawings identifying the main parts of the anatomies of various decapods, as well as color photos of more than a dozen species. For a free download of 21 MB copy, go to: Weiss Decapod Crustacean larvae book_Web
To purchase a print copy for $8 plus shipping, contact Andrea Kelly at: andrea.kelly@uconn.edu. Please reference the title and publication number CTSC-17-09.

Senate action is good news for Sea Grant

On a bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved funding for the National Sea Grant program at $65 million for base programs and $11.5 million for Sea Grant aquaculture. Part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency budget, the funding for National Sea Grant supports Sea Grant programs in 33 states, including Connecticut Sea Grant. This follows similar action in the House of Representatives and bodes well for the future of Sea Grant, which had been slated for termination under the President’s budget proposal. Connecticut Sea Grant is grateful for the support that Congress has demonstrated for the program, and the services it provides to communities and the maritime economy. While changes could still be made before passage of a final budget, the prospects for Sea Grant are promising.