The latest edition of the Great Bay SWMP status report (2022) is now available! This annual report highlights trends found in the data collected throughout the Great Bay Estuary each year using our four SWMP monitoring stations. The NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) is a long-term project that aims to measure and determine how conditions at Reserve sites across the country are changing on both long and short-term timescales. We support and manage efforts alongside our partners to monitor water quality, habitats, and species throughout Great Bay.
In 2022, one of the major trends that we observed were drought conditions that occurred during the late spring and throughout the summer. Although short, these extreme conditions had many implications for the estuary. One species that experienced positive effects due to the drought was eelgrass. Rainfall has a profound impact on water quality so, in drought conditions, eelgrass productivity is encouraged and the species is able to flourish. In 2021, eelgrass meadows suffered massive losses due to the amount of rainfall that brought excess nutrients and high levels of turbidity to the Bay. When storm water travels through rivers and into the Bay, excess sediment, nutrients, and other dissolved compounds come along with it. With all of these extra compounds in the water column, water quality is degraded and the water becomes turbid, blocking light from reaching eelgrass beds. Such conditions also cause blooms of phytoplankton and macroalgae which block light and can even smother eelgrass, leading to large die-off events. The recovery that we saw in 2022 can largely be attributed to the decrease of these environmental factors. According to the Piscataqua River Estuaries Partnership, the distribution of eelgrass in the Bay increased by 129 acres from 2021 to 2022. Eelgrass meadows are a very important species in the Bay, when healthy they provide oxygen, improve water quality, and serve as habitat for many different species. We are curious to see the data associated with the heavy rainfall from this past summer and how it will compare to the data from 2021 and 2022.
(Data sourced from Piscataqua Regions Estuary Partnership)
In other exciting SWMP news, GBNERR is currently working with a group of University of Wisconsin students on a project that aims to synthesize existing SMWP datasets to quantify estuarine ecosystem dynamics and identify trends along ecological gradients. To learn more about this project and for an overview about our SWMP program here at Great Bay, use the link below to watch a video featuring our Research Coordinator, Chris Peter, and University of New Hampshire Estuarine Monitoring Coordinator, Amanda Giacchetti, that was shared with the University of Wisconsin students who will be working on this new project. To view the 2022 status report as well as our previous reports, visit the monitoring page on our website, linked below, and click on the water quality drop down box.
-Katie McGovern, Research Assistant