Other LISS Climate Change Research Projects

Besides the Sentinel Monitoring program, projects related to Climate Change research have been funded through the Long Island Sound research grant program. Here are some of the projects:

Analyzing History to Project and Manage the Future: Simulating the Effects of Climate on Long Island Sound’s Physical Environment and Living Marine Resources

Investigators:  Nickitas Georgas, Alan F. Blumberg, and Philip M. Orton, Stevens Institute of Technology;  Penelope Howell, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Marine Fisheries Division; and Vincent S. Saba, NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Time Period: 2013-2016

Researchers will develop a computer model to analyze historical trends back to the 1970s to project the environmental conditions of Long Island Sound into the future. Stevens Institute of Technology will synthesize physical data collected for LIS and global climate change indices. The computer model will first model backward in time, a process called “hindcasting,” and will be compared to historic marine resources data provided by CT DEEP and a high-resolution global climate model from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The computer model will then look forward to simulating the effects of climate on Long Island Sound’s physical environment and living marine resources up to the year 2100.

Phase Shifts Among Primary Producers within Long Island Sound: Will Anthropogenic Stressors Continue to Expand the Niche of PSP- and DSP-producing Dinoflagellate Blooms?

Investigator: Christopher J. Gobler. School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University

Time Period: 2011-2013

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) have increased globally, with growing negative impacts on human health, fisheries, and economies. In Long Island Sound (LIS), the composition of its primary producers has undergone a fundamental change during the past decade as intense toxin-producing dinoflagellate blooms of Alexandrium fundyense and Dinophysis acuminata have become annual events within nearshore regions. This two-year project is based on the hypothesis that this phase shift has been initiated by a series of anthropogenic alterations to LIS ecosystems including nitrogen loading, organic matter loading, and factors related to climate change including increasing temperatures and increasing CO2 concentrations. Determining the primary causes of dinoflagellate blooms that produce PSP and DSP (two shellfish poisons) in LIS will be the first step toward developing plans to control and mitigate these events. This project will generate near-real-time reports for the NYSDEC and the CT Dept. of Aquaculture regarding densities of the bloom organisms across NY and CT, serving as an early warning system for bloom events within the LIS ecosystem. Data will be made accessible to the public and information will be provided to regulatory and management agencies to protect human health and minimize the future impacts of toxic dinoflagellates on LIS. Final Report

The Distribution, Causes, and Impacts of Alexandrium Fundyense Blooms in Coves, Near Shore, and Open Water Regions of Long Island Sound

Investigator: Gobler, Christopher J., School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University

Time Period: 2009-2011

Research proposed by Christopher Gobler examining “The Distribution, Causes and Impacts of Alexandrium fundyense Blooms in Coves, Near Shore and Open Water Regions of Long Island Sound”, will provide insights into the development and dynamics of red tides, a serious, emerging human health threat in Long Island Sound. Paralytic shellfish poisoning is caused by the ingestion by shellfish of certain strains of algae which produce saxitoxin. Shellfish accumulate this toxin and can, when these contaminated shellfish are consumed by humans or another predator, cause sickness or even death. Alexandrium fundyense is the saxitoxin-producing plankton in the coastal waters of Long Island Sound. In recent years there have been widespread commercial and recreational closures of shellfisheries resulting from outbreaks of this organism. The research, a combination of both field-based pelagic sampling and experimental protocols, seeks to establish spatial and temporal patterns for the distribution of this organism and its cysts in relation to temperature, nutrients, and other components of the planktonic community. Lab experiments will assess factors that enhance or impede the growth of these toxin-producing cells. This research gives fisheries managers and local health departments the essential information they need to protect human health and sustain healthy ecosystems and local economies. Final Report

Impacts of Climate Change on the Export of the Spring Bloom in Long Island Sound

Investigator: Lonsdale, Darcy J., School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University

Time Period:

Darcy Lonsdale and Christopher Gobler’s research, “Impacts of Climate Change on the Export of the Spring Bloom in Long Island Sound” examines the relationship between winter temperature and the abundance and composition of phytoplankton in the spring and explores potential impacts of changing winter water temperatures on local food webs. Their research, a combination of field collection and experimental lab work, will provide important insights into the potential impacts of climate change on marine systems in Long Island Sound. Water temperatures in Long Island Sound are increasing and warmer winter waters are associated with more zooplankton grazing. Grazing lowers phytoplankton growth, thus allowing the levels of nutrients, such as nitrogen, to remain high. These dynamic changes in production caused by a changing climate have serious implications for the development of hypoxic events, feeding relationships, and ultimately fisheries production in Long Island Sound. This exciting research constitutes a critical step in elucidating these relationships. Final Report

Saltmarsh-breeding Sparrows in Long Island Sound: Status and productivity of globally important populations

Dr. Chris Elphick and Dr. Margaret Rubega, University of Connecticut
Mr. Patrick Comins, National Audubon Society

Time Period: 2002-2003

The objective of this project is to compare a variety of methods for estimating saltmarsh sparrow abundance along the central Connecticut coast and identify the simplest, most cost-effective method for providing accurate population estimates.Saltmarsh sparrows are high priority species for bird conservation in New England. However, little is known about the status of these birds and methods for measuring their abundance are not well developed. Data gaps that these researchers are working to address include detailed information on population sizes, within-marsh habitat selection, and productivity. Evaluating the productivity of populations in key marshes is essential to determining the health of these populations and understanding the underlying environmental factors that influence reproductive success, breeding density and species occurrence are fundamental to effective management. Using data regarding what features influence nest site placement, the researchers are developing models that will be used to predict the consequences of a variety of habitat changes that may arise in the future and to compare alternative management scenarios. Data collected on marsh bird assemblages at each study plot is also being compiled by the researchers in order to evaluate options for developing useful indicators for the health of the bird communities in Long Island Sound saltmarshes.
Final Report Summary
Final Report

Additional information on this project is available at the following website:

Published paper related to grant: Gjerdrum, C., C.S. Elphick, and M. Rubega. 2005. What determines nest site selection and nesting success in saltmarsh breeding sparrows? Condor 107:849-862.

Environmental Change in Long Island Sound over the Last 400 Years

Investigators: Dr. Johan Varekamp, Dr. Ellen Thomas, and Dr. Kristina Beuning, Wesleyan University

The objective of this project is to document the environmental transition in Long Island Sound from pre-colonial times to the present day using sediment cores. The researchers are constructing the levels of dissolved oxygen, the abundance of sewage effluent, turbidity, local productivity of organic carbon, the terrestrial influx of organic carbon, and the levels of toxic metal contamination in Long Island Sound over the last 400 years. They are also gathering data regarding the ecosystem changes associated with these factors. Data indicate that sewage derived from humans led to the overfertilization of the Sound, to hypoxia, and to fundamental changes in the abundance and types of animal and plant life. This research will provide information on the present state of health of the Long Island Sound ecosystem, as well as the history of anthropogenically-induced changes in this ecosystem.
Final Public Summary
Final Report

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