Support for Integrated Ecosystem Assessments of NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves System (NERRS), Volume I: The Impacts of Coastal Development on the Ecology and Human Well-being of Tidal Creek Ecosystems of the US Southeast

Sanger, D. and Blair, A. and DiDonato, G. and Washburn, T. and Jones, S. and Chapman, R. and Bergquist, D. and Riekerk, G. and Wirth, E. and Stewart, J. and White, D. and Vandiver, L. and White, S. and Whitall, D. (2008) Support for Integrated Ecosystem Assessments of NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves System (NERRS), Volume I: The Impacts of Coastal Development on the Ecology and Human Well-being of Tidal Creek Ecosystems of the US Southeast. Charleston, SC, NOAA/NOS/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, (NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS, 82)

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Abstract

A study was conducted, in association with the Sapelo Island and North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs), to evaluate the impacts of coastal development on sentinel habitats (e.g., tidal creek ecosystems), including potential impacts to human health and well-being. Uplands associated with southeastern tidal creeks and the salt marshes they drain are popular locations for building homes, resorts, and recreational facilities because of the high quality of life and mild climate associated with these environments. Tidal creeks form part of the estuarine ecosystem characterized by high biological productivity, great ecological value, complex environmental gradients, and numerous interconnected processes. This research combined a watershed-level study integrating ecological, public health and human dimension attributes with watershed-level land use data. The approach used for this research was based upon a comparative watershed and ecosystem approach that sampled tidal creek networks draining developed watersheds (e.g., suburban, urban, and industrial) as well as undeveloped sites. The primary objective of this work was to clearly define the relationships between coastal development with its concomitant land use changes and non-point source pollution loading and the ecological and human health and well-being status of tidal creek ecosystems. Nineteen tidal creek systems, located along the southeastern United States coast from southern North Carolina to southern Georgia, were sampled during summer (June-August), 2005 and 2006. Within each system, creeks were divided into two primary segments based upon tidal zoning: intertidal (i.e., shallow, narrow headwater sections) and subtidal (i.e., deeper and wider sections), and watersheds were delineated for each segment. In total, we report findings on 24 intertidal and 19 subtidal creeks. Indicators sampled throughout each creek included water quality (e.g., dissolved oxygen concentration, salinity, nutrients, chlorophyll-a levels), sediment quality (e.g., characteristics, contaminants levels including emerging contaminants), pathogen and viral indicators, and abundance and genetic responses of biological resources (e.g., macrobenthic and nektonic communities, shellfish tissue contaminants, oyster microarray responses). For many indicators, the intertidally-dominated or headwater portions of tidal creeks were found to respond differently than the subtidally-dominated or larger and deeper portions of tidal creeks. Study results indicate that the integrity and productivity of headwater tidal creeks were impaired by land use changes and associated non-point source pollution, suggesting these habitats are valuable early warning sentinels of ensuing ecological impacts and potential public health threats. For these headwater creeks, this research has assisted the validation of a previously developed conceptual model for the southeastern US region. This conceptual model identified adverse changes that generally occurred in the physical and chemical environment (e.g., water quality indicators such as indicator bacteria for sewage pollution or sediment chemical contamination) when impervious cover levels in the watershed reach 10-20%. Ecological characteristics responded and were generally impaired when impervious cover levels exceed 20-30%. Estimates of impervious cover levels defining where human uses are impaired are currently being determined, but it appears that shellfish bed closures and the flooding vulnerability of headwater regions become a concern when impervious cover values exceed 10-30%. This information can be used to forecast the impacts of changing land use patterns on tidal creek environmental quality as well as associated human health and well-being. In addition, this study applied tools and technologies that are adaptable, transferable, and repeatable among the high quality NERRS sites as comparable reference entities to other nearby developed coastal watersheds. The findings herein will be of value in addressing local, regional and national needs for understanding multiple stressor (anthropogenic and human impacts) effects upon estuarine ecosystems and response trends in ecosystem condition with changing coastal impacts (i.e., development, climate change). (PDF contaions 88 pages)

Item Type: Monograph or Serial Issue
Title: Support for Integrated Ecosystem Assessments of NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserves System (NERRS), Volume I: The Impacts of Coastal Development on the Ecology and Human Well-being of Tidal Creek Ecosystems of the US Southeast
Personal Creator/Author:
CreatorsEmail
Sanger, D.
Blair, A.
DiDonato, G.
Washburn, T.
Jones, S.
Chapman, R.
Bergquist, D.
Riekerk, G.
Wirth, E.
Stewart, J.
White, D.
Vandiver, L.
White, S.
Whitall, D.
Series Name: NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS
Number: 82
Date: 2008
Publisher: NOAA/NOS/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
Place of Publication: Charleston, SC
Issuing Agency: United States National Ocean Service
Uncontrolled Keywords: National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS); North Carolina NERR; Sapelo Island NERR; Tidal creek; Sentinel habitat; Conceptual model; Impervious cover; Land use: Urbanization: Sediment and tissue contaminants: Water quality: Pathogens; Nekton; Oysters; Macrobenthos; Physical and chemical environment
Subjects: Ecology
Management
Fisheries
Item ID: 2114
Depositing User: Patti M. Marraro
Date Deposited: 19 May 2009 19:23
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2014 01:54
URI: http://aquaticcommons.org/id/eprint/2114

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