Connecticut River Watershed Study Will Assess Impacts of Extreme Rain Events

Apr 23rd, 2014 | By | Category: Long Island Sound, Water

A team of Yale researchers will lead a five-year, $3 million study to determine whether an increase in extreme rain events is affecting the transport of dissolved organic matter (DOM) through the Connecticut River watershed, a phenomenon they say could alter the chemical composition and water quality of the watershed and Long Island Sound.

Muddy sediment empties into Long Island Sound from the Connecticut River after Hurricane Irene in 2011. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Muddy sediment empties into Long Island Sound from the Connecticut River after Hurricane Irene in 2011. (NASA Earth Observatory)

With funding from the National Science Foundation’s MacroSystems Biology program, researchers will collect data from dozens of points across the watershed, which begins in Canada and runs through five U.S. states, before emptying into Long Island Sound. Dissolved organic matter, a complex mix of compounds that leeches into waterways and gives rivers and streams their color, is a “master variable” in water systems; In addition to introducing both nutrients and pollutants, DOM influences the escape of carbon dioxide from the water and can impact the amount of light that penetrates the water. That, in turn, can affect levels of phytoplankton, a major food source for many organisms.

The researchers say that shifts in the transport of DOM could potentially impact mercury inputs to inland waters and the Sound, dissolved oxygen concentrations, and water clarity.

“Understanding how storms impact water quality and the delivery of materials to the coast is important to managing these vital ecosystems,” said lead investigator Peter Raymond, a professor of ecosystem ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Other contributors to the study include Jon Morrison and Jamie Shanley from the U.S. Geological Survey, Bill Sobczak from the College of the Holy Cross, and Aron Stubbins from the University of Georgia.

For more on this story, visit: Connecticut River Watershed Study Will Assess Impacts of Extreme Rain Events.

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