BARNEGAT BAY–LITTLE EGG HARBOR ESTUARY: CASE STUDY OF A HIGHLY EUTROPHIC COASTAL BAY SYSTEM Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary is classified here as a highly eutrophic estuary based on application of NOAA’s National Estuarine Eutrophication Assessment model. Because it is shallow, poorly flushed, and bordered by highly developed watershed areas, the estuary is particularly susceptible to the effects of nutrient loading. Most of this load (~50%) is from surface water inflow, but substantial fractions also originate from atmospheric deposition (~39%), and direct groundwater discharges (~11%). No point source inputs of nutrients exist in the Barnegat Bay watershed. Since 1980, all treated wastewater from the Ocean County Utilities Authority's regional wastewater treatment system has been discharged 1.6 km offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Eutrophy causes problems in this system, including excessive micro- and macroalgal growth, harmful algal blooms (HABs), altered benthic invertebrate communities, impacted harvestable fisheries, and loss of essential habitat (i.e., seagrass and shellfish beds). Similar problems are evident in other shallow lagoonal estuaries of the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions. To effectively address nutrient enrichment problems in the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary, it is important to determine the nutrient loading levels that produce observable impacts in the system. It is also vital to continually monitor and assess priority indicators of water quality change and estuarine health. In addition, the application of a new generation of innovative models using web-based tools (e.g., NLOAD) will enable researchers and decision-makers to more successfully manage nutrient loads from the watershed. Finally, the implementation of stormwater retrofit projects should have beneficial effects on the system.

publication date

  • July 2007