Niantic River Estuary

Data Synthesis and Modeling of Nitrogen Effects on Niantic River Estuary

Dr. Jamie Vaudrey, Dr. Jason Krumholz & Dr. Christopher Calabretta

Proposal Abstract –

The Niantic River Estuary has a long history of monitoring of water quality, eelgrass metrics, and biota conducted by Millstone Environmental Lab and Save the River, Save the Hills. More recent work has been conducted by the Niantic River Watershed Commission, USGS, and a variety of academic researchers, including Vaudrey. Our proposed project involves three phases: (1) synthesis and integration of available data, (2) development of a model to investigate the relationship between nutrient inputs, physical flow, climatic changes, and the response of the ecosystem (oxygen, eelgrass, macroalgae), and (3) application of the model and data synthesis towards management scenario analysis and development of recommendations.

We propose to (a) synthesize data and use statistical techniques to evaluate the relationship between environmental responses (eelgrass extent, phenology of eelgrass, hypoxia, macroalgae) and drivers (river flow and nutrient input, nitrogen loads from the watershed, temperature, sunlight); (b) utilize existing data to develop an ecosystem model (biogeochemical model coupled to a physical mixing model) based on Vaudrey’s work modeling Narragansett Bay; (c) develop recommendations for a target nitrogen load from the watershed which is supportive of the Long Island Sound Study’s Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan targets for eelgrass and  ecosystem integrity, taking into account the predicted changes in climate (e.g. rising temperatures and sea levels); (d) utilize a land-use based nitrogen loading model recently developed by Vaudrey for many embayments, including Niantic River, to evaluate nitrogen mitigation strategies; (e) assess the applicability of this study to other embayments of Long Island Sound by suggesting approach and data requirements for various assessments; and (6) identify any data gaps and suggest monitoring protocol to fill these gaps.

Timeline of Reports –

  • Sep 1, 2016 – QAPP, Final Version
  • Sep 15, 2016 – Model Choice Justification for TAC Review
  • Mar 15, 2016 – Model Overview for TAC Review
  • Mar 31, 2017 – Data Synthesis Interim Report
  • Apr 28, 2017 – Model Interim Report
  • Apr 20, 2017 – Target N Load Recommendations Interim Report
  • May 1, 2017 – N Mitigation Strategies Interim Report
  • Jun 15, 2017 – Draft Report (version 1, no assessment of transferability or data gaps)
  • Sep 1, 2017 – Draft Report (version 2, including assessment of transferability or data gaps)
  • Nov 15, 2017 – Final Report