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 Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles

19.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Thin films from Braunschweig on the way to Mercury

19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

App-App-Hooray! - Innovative Kits for AR Applications

19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>