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

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

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