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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coastal Model Applications and Field Measurements > Research Activities > Nutrients and Seagrass in West Falmouth Harbor

Coastal Model Applications and Field Measurements

Nutrients and Seagrass in West Falmouth Harbor

West Falmouth Harbor (WFH) is an estuarine embayment on the eastern edge of Buzzards Bay with freshwater supplied mainly by coastal groundwater discharge. The groundwater that seeps into the harbor has high levels of nitrate from the Falmouth wastewater treatment plant. The plant has recently improved sewage treatment, and the nitrate input to WFH is expected to decrease. We are currently investigating how decreased nitrate input may influence the success of native seagrasses.

We conducted field and modeling studies of West Falmouth Harbor, Massachusetts, building on our prior work (Ganju, 2011; Ganju et al., 2011; Ganju et al, 2012; Gitonga and Ganju, 2013). We recently integrated a spectral light model into the COAWST modeling system to simulate changes in light irradiance as a function of depth, chlorophyll, sediment concentration, and colored dissolved organic matter. Data collected in the summer of 2012 were used to assess model performance for simulating changes in light climate as nitrate loads to West Falmouth Harbor are reduced. We then simulated the response of seagrass to these changes with an offline model, finding a return of seagrass in the inner portion of the harbor, but also landward migration due to sea level rise (del Barrio et al., in press). Future work aims to build in sediment biogeochemistry and online modeling of seagrass biomass.

We collaborated with researchers from Cornell University to map seagrass coverage in the outer harbor in May 2014, providing field assistance (vessel, operator, and equipment) for the survey. The figure shows an example of seagrass in sonar images.

Image of computer screen with sonar data"

Snapshot of sonar images of seagrass in West Falmouth Harbor, MA during the May, 2014 survey.


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