2016 Research Project Descriptions

Projects took place from 2017 to 2019.

How Will Sea Level Rise-driven Shifts in Wetland Vegetation Alter Ecosystem Services?

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

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 surges. 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. See Final Report.

This project also resulted in the development of a teaching module, which was presented in a teacher webinar in August 2020 by Lawrence and master teacher Kimberly “Ly” Williams. Click here to access the webinar and module page.

Nutrient and Carbon Fluxes Through Long Island Sound, Linking River Sources to Impacted Areas

Investigators: Michael Whitney and Penny Vlahos, University of Connecticut

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 nutrient and carbon sources and whether certain locations can store carbon. The results will inform management decisions for the Sound. See final report.

Sources and Fluxes of Excess Nitrogen Supplied by Fresh Submarine Groundwater Discharge to Long Island Sound

Investigators: Troy Rasbury, Kirk Cochrane, and Henry Bokuniewicz, Stony Brook University

Fresh submarine groundwater discharge along Long Island’s north shore is an important source of nitrogen loading into the Sound, in some locations supplying as much N 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. A team of researchers from Stony Brook University will use a unique combination of isotope tracers to determine 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. See Final Report.

See journal article, Tamborski, J., Brown, C., Bokuniewicz, H., Cochran, J. K., and Rasbury E. T., 2020, Investigating boron isotopes for identifying nitrogen sources supplied by submarine groundwater discharge to coastal waters, Frontiers in Environmental Science

Please complete your newsletter signup.