Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Eastern N.C. Ecosystem Bounces Back From Hurricanes

15.06.2004


After receiving the brunt of powerful hurricanes in 1996 and 1999, the Neuse River and Estuary and western Pamlico Sound in eastern North Carolina appear to have suffered few long-term ill effects from the storms, and have actually benefited ecologically in some ways from the storms’ scouring effects.


Annual commercial catch of bivalve molluscs (a), shrimp (b), and finfish (c) in Pamlico Sound (filled triangles) and the Neuse River Estuary (open triangles), 1994-2002 (N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources data).



Those are the findings of a team of North Carolina State University scientists and collaborators from various North Carolina universities and government agencies.

Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, NC State professor of botany and director of the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, says the research shows that water quality, numbers and health of most of the area’s shellfish and finfish, and the overall health of the surveyed water systems – though initially acutely affected by storms, especially Hurricane Fran in 1996 – have over the long run returned to normal, suggesting the resilience of estuarine systems such as the Neuse and Pamlico Sound. Some harmful organisms that took hold before the storms are now in abeyance, suggesting the storms beneficially flushed the areas studied. The one major estuary dweller that has been slow to recover is the blue crab, the researchers say, although its numbers are now creeping back toward average abundances.


The research is published online this week (June 14) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.).

After the storms, predictions abounded that Pamlico Sound, of the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System – the largest lagoonal estuary in the United States – would be devastated by the cumulative effects of Hurricane Fran in 1996 and Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd and Irene in 1999.

But the longer-term data presented in this study show the remarkable recovery and resilience of the water quality and the finfish and shellfish inhabitants.

The paper shows that although less water volume was delivered by Hurricane Fran, large amounts of fish kills were reported due to oxygen depletion and high concentrations of contaminants like nitrogen, phosphorus and fecal bacteria. After the 1999 hurricane season, however, contaminant loads were about the same as in 1996, but no major fish kills were reported due to the enormous amount of flooding that diluted the pollution, Burkholder says.

Diminished levels of dissolved oxygen were documented after both storms. But those levels returned to normal shortly after the storms, the research shows.

Burkholder added that the storms displaced undesirable organisms – like the toxic alga Pfiesteria, linked to massive fish kills in the 1990s – to areas of the estuary that are less conducive for growth. Pfiesteria populations have shown minimal recovery.

The paper also states that commercial catch numbers of shrimp or bivalve molluscs such as clams and scallops did not suffer long-term effects from the storms.

The one species affected negatively for a longer period of time by the storms was the blue crab, the paper asserts. Reductions in the number of blue crabs can be attributed, says Dr. David Eggleston, professor of marine science at NC State and co-author of the paper, to the relationship between hurricane floodwaters, the crabs’ migration response to the floodwaters and the subsequent overfishing of the mass-migrating crabs.

“We feel the historically low abundances of blue crabs in 2000 and 2001 are a direct result of the interactions between floodwaters and overfishing,” Eggleston said. “The blue crabs migrated en masse, which concentrated them and made them more vulnerable to fishing.”

Another piece of the puzzle involved the areas where the blue crabs colonize, Eggleston says. Floodwaters from the rivers impeded the movement of post-larval stages of the blue crab from seawater inlets to their nursery habitats along the western shore of Pamlico Sound.

Eggleston says, though, that his new stock assessments of the blue crabs will shed further light on its status in Pamlico Sound.

“The overall story we see is of estuarine resilience to impacts from these types of major storms,” Burkholder said. “The negative predictions about long-term devastation of water quality and fisheries, made right after the storms, were not borne out.”

Funding for the study was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, the N.C. General Assembly, the National Science Foundation and N.C. Sea Grant.

Mick Kulikowski | NC State University
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu/news/press_releases/04_06/198.htm

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>