Tuesday, Apr. 4th – 7:00pm: SoMAS SOUTHAMPTON LECTURE SERIES
Dr. Christopher Gobler
SoMAS, Stony Brook University
On Long Island, our sole-source aquifer is our drinking water supply and is the primary source of freshwater, nitrogen, and other contaminants to coastal ecosystems. Recent trends in the quality of both groundwater and surface waters on Long Island have been worrisome. Emerging contaminants such as PFAS and 1,4-dioxane have contaminated drinking water supplies. Nitrogen levels in groundwater have risen by more than 60% in recent decades and coastal ecosystems have degraded. Since the late twentieth century, critical marine habitats on Long Island including eelgrass and salt marshes have declined by up to 90% and landings of Long Island’s top shellfisheries have declined more than 90%. Compounding the effects of nitrogen pollution is climate change. We have entered the Anthropocene as human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment, and 2022 provided clear evidence that climate change has arrived in NY. The fish kills were an ongoing occurrence in regions with high temperatures and bouts of nocturnal hypoxia, or low oxygen. A new study revealed that combinations of high temperatures, heat waves, and low oxygen have contributed to the collapse of NY’s bay scallop fishery. In addition, excessive nitrogen loading was shown to significantly increase the intensity of algal blooms, harmful algal blooms, and low oxygen conditions across more than 25 locations on Long Island. Given that continued climate change will intensify heat waves, hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, and acidification, action is needed to mitigate these problems. In good news, Long Island has become a hub for novel solutions to mitigate water quality impairment and climate change. ‘In the water’ remediation approaches involving seaweeds and bivalves can locally ameliorate nitrogen loads, algal blooms, and ocean acidification, and recent shellfish restoration efforts have led to estuarine ecosystem recovery. The New York State Clean Water Technology Center at Stony Brook University has identified cost-effective technologies that dramatically reduce the delivery of nitrogen and other contaminants from individual homes to coastal water bodies. Implementation of such technologies coupled with ‘in the water’ solutions will be required to reverse the decadal negative trends in water quality and fisheries.