Comprehensive Plan of Action Item #9
Fill in the Gaps on Research
Over the years,extensive research has been conducted on Barnegat Baybut the work has not been fully coordinated - resulting in some key gaps in thedata. The first step in filling this gap was to do an inventory ofexisting research and assess the conclusions of the various studies. Thisprocess resulted in the development of an extensive bibliography thatcatalogues ecological and land use studies performed on Barnegat Bay.
The second phaseof the effort was to evaluate the data and determine what could be used toadvance further action toward recovery of the Bay’s decline. The NJDEP Office of Science working with theScience Advisory Board, state universities, the U.S. Geological Survey, theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Barnegat Bay Partnership developedand is funding additional research projects to address data gaps. The researchagenda that has emerged will help address how we improve water quality andadvance habitat restoration on the Bay, and establish baseline conditions ofthe Bay. There are ten research projects identified to meet theseneeds:
- BenthicInvertebrate Community Monitoring and Indicator Development for the BarnegatBay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary
Benthic or bottom-dwelling invertebrate insects arecurrently used by NJDEP in freshwater streams to show aquatic life impairment.This project will investigate the same scientifically defensible approach forestuaries using bottom invertebrate species (e.g., clams, worms, crabs, etc.) specificallyto assess nutrient impairment from nitrogen and phosphorus in the overlyingwaters.
- Barnegat Bay Diatom NutrientInference Model
NJDEP water qualitymonitoring of Barnegat Bay for nutrients(nitrogen and phosphorus) did not start until 1989. Salt marsh sediments holdsignatures of past nutrient loads going back hundreds of years as well as theremains of microscopic plant algae that can act as indicators of past pollution.This information will be evaluated for the development of biologically-defensiblenutrient criteria for New Jerseybays and related restoration goals.
- Benthic-Pelagic Coupling: Hard Clams asIndicators of Suspended Particulates in the Barnegat Bay
The hard clamwas once the most commercially important shellfish species in Barnegat Bay.Studies indicate that the hard clam stock decreased by approximately 67 % from1986 to 2001. The overall goal of this project is to characterize the qualityand quantity of the food in the water column for suspension-feeding hard clams,measure the growth rates of caged seed clams, and to see if changes in foodquality might be a major factor in the decline, and whether efforts to dealwith eutrophication might reverse this trend affecting the food supply in apositive fashion
- Assessment of Fishes and Crabs Responses to HumanAlteration of Barnegat Bay.
Fishes and crabs in Barnegat Bayare important natural resources, harvested both recreationally and commercially.However there have been no comprehensive studies of their populations since the1970’s when increasing human density and urbanization occurred. The goal ofthis project is to determine how the fish and crabs of Barnegat Bayresponded to this urbanization by comparing the temporal (annual, seasonal) andspatial (along the gradient of urbanization) variation in the bay.
- Assessment of the Distribution and Abundance ofStinging Sea Nettles (Jellyfishes) in Barnegat Bay
There has been an increase in the abundance and distributionof stinging jellyfishes in Barnegat Bay although very little is known about itscause. This study will investigate two possible drivers for this occurrence; increasedconstruction of hard surfaces (e.g., bulkheads, docks) that provide suitable attachmentsfor juvenile jellyfish and eutrophication from nutrients (e.g., nitrogen),which can cause a loss of oxygen giving jellyfish an advantage over otherspecies.
- BaselineCharacterization of Phytoplankton and Harmful Algal Blooms
In coastal bays phytoplankton are microscopic plants thatfloat in the water column or live on the bottom forming the base of a complexfood web. Algal blooms are often directly linked to nutrient loading that cancause fish kills and/or a reduction in some important fishery resources. Thisstudy will investigate the complex interactions between nutrient loadings,phytoplankton responses, and toxic/harmful algal blooms.
- BaselineCharacterization of Zooplankton in Barnegat Bay
Zooplankton includes shrimps, larval fishes, and other largeanimals in the water column such as jellyfish. They form an important food web linkbetween phytoplankton algae and higher trophic levels such as crabs, shrimp,clams and fish. The last definitive studies of zooplankton in Barnegat Baywere conducted in the 1970’s. Many of the zooplankton are currently impinged onthe Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station cooling water intake screens orelse entrained into the plant’s intake. New information will be needed on theabundance and distribution of these important ecological organisms as abaseline once the plant stops operating in a number of years.
- Multi-TrophicLevel Modeling of Barnegat Bay
Historically, natural resource management within Barnegat Bay has occurred on a species (e.g.,hard clam) or sector level (e.g., approved shellfish beds). Recently theprinciples of ecosystem-based management have given rise to more holistic managementtools. The goal of this project is to develop dynamic models to help usunderstand how natural and human changes to Barnegat Bay have affected thestructure and function of the bay’s biota and to determine how those componentsare linked and to predict how components will respond to management actions(e.g., reduced nutrients, clam/fish population recovery).
- Tidal Freshwater and Salt Marsh WetlandStudies of Changing Ecological Function and Adaptation Strategies
Over 28% of Barnegat Bay's tidal marshes were lost todevelopment between 1940 and 1970. However,recent studies show that wetlands in Barnegat Baycan adsorb and bury 80 % of the nitrogen entering it from upland sourcesbuffering the waters from potential eutrophication effects (e.g., harmful algalblooms, anoxia, fish kills). Specifically,the study will enhance our understanding of the nitrogen uptake, burial andremoval services provided by the coastal wetlands.
- EcologicalEvaluation of Sedge Island Marine Conservation Area in Barnegat Bay
The Sedge Island WildlifeManagement Area in Barnegat Bay is located within NJ's first Marine ConservationZone, just off Island Beach State Park.The shallow water surrounding the group of islands serves as a nursery for manyspecies of marine animals including blue claw crabs, hard clams and fish. Thisstudy will assess the population structure and reproductive potential of bluecrabs in the zone and compare them with crabs captured in more developed areasof Barnegat Bay. This will allow us to assess theeffectiveness of the protected waters to sustain key recreational andcommercially important species with the possibility of creating other lowimpact boating areas.
Resources and Documents
For more information contact: Dr. Gary A. Buchanan, Manager,Office of Science or Thomas Belton, Research Scientist 1, 609-984-6070