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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center > USGS Studies in Long Island Sound > Ongoing and Future Work

U.S. Geological Survey Studies in Long Island Sound:
Geology, Contaminants, and Environmental Issues

Ongoing and Future Work

Contaminants: Distribution, History, Fate, and Effects of Contaminated Sediments

History of Contaminant Accumulation and Dynamics
Sediment cores from Long Island Sound have been analyzed for metal contaminants, physical properties, and sedimentation patterns. Current work includes mapping the amount of these contaminants buried in the sediments, identifying past events (e.g., storms, changes in industries) that influenced contaminant inputs, and modeling sediment movement. A goal is to predict the future location of these ‘legacy contaminants’ and use this understanding to minimize their negative impacts on the marine system. This work is part of the US Geological Survey Regional Pollution Project: "Long Island Sound Environmental Studies."
Historical Contaminated Sediment Data for Long Island Sound
Bottom sediments in Long Island Sound have accumulated many types of pollutants, including metals and organic compounds of pesticide, industrial, and petroleum derivation. Much analytical and descriptive data has been obtained on these sediments over the past decades yet these published and unpublished data have not been compiled into forms suitable for a variety of users. The Long Island Sound component of the Contaminated Sediments Database will provide a compilation and synthesis of existing data to help establish the environmental status of our coastal sediments, how it has changed over time, and the transport paths of contaminants in this region. This work is part of the US Geological Survey Regional Pollution Project: "Long Island Sound Environmental Studies," and it involves collaborators from many institutions.
What’s ailing the Lobsters? Evaluation of Long Island Sound sediment to identify environmental changes over the last 30-40 years
Building on an ongoing study, this project aims to development a detailed timeline of environmental changes in Long Island Sound over the last decades by evaluating sediment cores. The study will assist in the development of a holistic framework of environmental changes in the Sound. Evaluation of sediment will provide information on water temperatures, organisms within the food chain, dissolved oxygen levels, pollution, and salinity. The information derived from this study will assist in knowing whether the lobster die-off is more strongly linked to global climate change or to local contamination with pollutants or nutrients. A collaborative research project by scientists from the USGS, Wesleyan University (CT), the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and Bryn Athyn College (PA). Funded by the Connecticut State Department of Environmental Protection’s Lobster Research Initiative.
History of environmental change: Environmental Change in Long Island Sound over the last 400 years
Samples from sediment cores which have ages assigned to specific depth intervals can be analyzed for a variety of chemical, physical and biological parameters. USGS samples from which the contaminant and age data are available and being used to reconstruct the paleoenvironmental history of Long Island Sound through faunal, chemical and isotopic studies. Questions addressed include: Did anoxia/hypoxia exist prior to industrialization and population increase? How have water temperature, turbidity and salinity changed over the past four centuries? Can natural fluctuations in environmental indicators be separated from anthropogenic effects? A collaborative research project by scientists from the USGS and Wesleyan University. Funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and Connecticut Sea Grant.
Science for better ecosystem management
USGS scientists assist environmental managers and the public to better understand how geologic processes affect the distribution and fate of contaminants in the Sound. Knowledge of the history of contaminant build-up in the region and how sediments are transported within the ecosystem helps to identify improvements in the health of the Sound, to guide monitoring, and to predict future conditions.
See Sound Health 2001: Status and Trends in the Health of Long Island Sound online at

See Environmental Studies Based on Long Island Sound Sediment online at This is a presentation at the NOAA/EPA sponsored Long Island Sound Study Workshop: From hypoxia-based to ecosystem-based monitoring (March 2002).

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