Comparing ag and industrial runoff between estuaries

HONOLULU -- Although many of the world's major estuaries are polluted, until now there has not been a study that uniformly compares levels of nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus in two separate bodies of water.

Environmental biologists have now made it possible to directly compare, for instance, the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Gdansk in Poland. The uniform methodology they have developed to measure the carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus levels -- indicating runoff from industry and agriculture -- in the world's waters will be discussed today (Feb. 13) at the American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences meeting, at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

"There have been many studies around the globe of the world's estuaries and coastal water systems. But to date there has not been a uniform approach to measure the effects of loads of nitrogen and phosphorus in those waters," says Dennis Swaney, an environmental biologist at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research Inc., located on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Swaney works with the environmental biology group, primarily in watershed modeling, at the institute. He and his colleagues, Stephen Smith and Vilma Dupra, both of the University of Hawaii, will discuss this system -- the Land Ocean Interactions in Coastal Zones, or LOICZ -- in a talk, "Patterns Emerging from the LOICZ Biogeochemical Budget and Typology Datasets." (Fredrik Wulff of Stockholm University, Sweden, also collaborated on the project.)

The researchers' approach is based on the conservation of mass. While water volume and salt content in the estuaries and coastal water areas remain approximately constant over time, nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are taken up, or released, by biological processes in estuaries. As water flows through the system and mixes with adjacent systems, such as oceans or seas, the flows of water are described by scientists in terms of "water budgets" and the nutrie

Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Cornell University News Service

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