Navigation Links
Oyster aquaculture could significantly improve Potomac River estuary water quality
Date:4/9/2014

Oyster aquaculture in the Potomac River estuary could result in significant improvements to water quality, according to a new NOAA and U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Aquatic Geochemistry.

All of the nitrogen currently polluting the Potomac River estuary could be removed if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation, according to the joint study. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters, who feed by filtering, can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality.

The study is based on data modeling and an ecosystem-wide scientific evaluation, which examined how activities in the watershed affected the river estuary's water quality. The research team evaluated nitrogen flows from the Potomac River headwaters and the nutrient-related water quality conditions of the estuary, called eutrophication.

Eutrophication takes place when a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients that stimulate the growth of aquatic plants, causing nuisance algal blooms. These blooms often result in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and the loss of seagrasses.

The team sought to assess how shellfish aquaculture specifically oyster aquaculture -- could be used to remove nutrients directly from the water, complementing traditional land-based measures.

Although the estuary bottom area needed to grow oysters to remove the nutrients exists, it is unlikely that such a management measure would be implemented because of conflicting uses. However, a smaller area could still provide great benefits if aquaculture leases were approved. According to the study, if only 15 to 20 percent of the bottom was cultivated it could remove almost half of the incoming nutrients.

"Our study looked to see just how much impact oyster aquaculture could have in restoring some balance to the system," said Suzanne Bricker, Ph.D., physical scientist in NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the paper's lead author. "Eutrophication conditions in the Potomac River estuary are representative of conditions found in the Chesapeake Bay and many other U.S. estuaries. Historically, waters of the Potomac and other Chesapeake region estuaries were filtered by oysters, but as their populations declined so did their filtration capabilities. This resulted in increased concentrations of nutrients and related water quality concerns, such as algal blooms and low dissolved oxygen.

"The most expedient way to reduce eutrophication in the Potomac River estuary would be to continue reducing land-based nutrients complemented by a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs. The resulting combination could provide significant removal of nutrients and eutrophication impacts directly from the water column, and offer innovative solutions to long-term persistent water quality problems."

This alternative approach to water quality management has the potential to address legacy pollution, provide a marketable seafood product if there are no other contaminant issues that would prevent human consumption, and enhance local economies with additional income to growers through the possible development of a program -- similar to those being considered in other parts of the country -- where growers would be paid for the water cleaning services done by their oysters.

Flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River is the fourth largest river on the Atlantic coast, with more than six million people living in its watershed. The NOAA and USGS research about human influences on water quality found that the effects of high nutrient levels have not changed overall since the early 1990s. There are, however, some signs of improvement, such as decreased nitrogen loads from the watershed, increased dissolved oxygen and decreased algal blooms in the upper estuary, and continued regrowth of seagrasses.

While scientists have seen signs of improvement, they remain concerned with eutrophication. Dissolved oxygen, a key measure of water quality, is something fish and other aquatic species can't survive without.

Atmospheric deposition where gases and particles are released into the atmosphere from combustion of fossil fuels and return to the land as contaminants also plays a role in polluting the estuary.

"Less attention has been paid to monitoring the effects of atmospheric deposition in headwater streams now that acidic emissions have declined because of the Clean Air Act and Amendments going into effect," said Karen Rice, Ph.D., USGS research hydrologist. "Nevertheless, monitoring of forested, headwater streams that reflect changes in atmospheric inputs should be continued, if not expanded, so that changes in stream-water quality as related to atmospheric deposition can be tracked."

The researchers believe the results of the study may be useful on a broad basis, as there are other river-dominated estuaries in the Chesapeake region and elsewhere along the U.S. coastline that could support shellfish aquaculture.


'/>"/>

Contact: Ben Sherman
Ben.Sherman@noaa.gov
301-713-3066
NOAA Headquarters
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Ocean acidification linked to larval oyster failure
2. New report puts real numbers behind history of oyster reefs
3. Oyster genome uncover the stress adaptation and complexity of shell formation
4. This month in ecology: Oysters, big rivers, biofuels
5. Electron-beam pasteurization of raw oysters may reduce viral food poisoning
6. Oysters could rebound more quickly with limited fishing and improved habitat
7. Listen up: Oysters may use sound to select a home
8. Acidification, predators pose double threat to oysters
9. NOAA: Coastal ocean aquaculture can be environmentally sustainable
10. Heart-powered pacemaker could one day eliminate battery-replacement surgery
11. New test could help track down and prosecute terrorists
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/2/2016)... Technology Enhancements Accelerate Growth of X-ray Imaging ... and computed radiography markets in Thailand ... Indonesia (TIM). It provides an in-depth analysis ... as regional market drivers and restraints. The study offers ... market attractiveness, both for digital and computed radiography. Market ...
(Date:2/1/2016)... Feb. 1, 2016  Today, the first day of ... plans to develop a first of its kind workplace ... IBM Watson. In the first application of ... IBM ), and Welltok will create a new ... with cognitive analytics, delivered on Welltok,s health optimization platform. ...
(Date:1/25/2016)... Unisys Corporation (NYSE: UIS ) today announced the implementation ... New York City , to help U.S. ... the United States using passports that are ... of the system at Dulles last year. The system will ... 2016. --> pilot testing of the system at ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Inc. (NASDAQ: NBIX ) today announced its financial results for ... --> --> For the fourth quarter of ... $0.34 loss per share, compared to a net loss of $19.4 ... 2014. For the year ended December 31, 2015, the Company reported ... as compared to a net loss of $60.5 million, or $0.81 ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... , Feb. 11, 2016  Wellcentive today announced ... Portland, Oregon -based community care organization ... population health analytics, quality reporting and care management ... strengthen its team of quality managers, analysts and ... the provider groups serving FamilyCare members. ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... 150 years, continues today to pursue the highest level of accuracy and quality ... the AR9 Refractometer and the AR5 Refractometer. Accurate, reliable and tough enough ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... Md. , Feb. 10, 2016  The Maryland ... Busch , has announced that University of Maryland School ... PhD, MBA and University of Maryland Medical System President ... of the "Speaker,s Medallion," the highest honor given to ... of Delegates. Dean Reece and Mr. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: