Answers to a question raised by citizen scientist, Elkhorn Slough Reserve volunteer, and avid kayaker Ron Eby were just published in a multi-faceted study of algal mats in Biological Conservation.
“It just seemed there was a connection between the algal mats on the marsh edges and mud chucks calving off the banks,” say Eby, who brought his wonderings to Reserve Research Coordinator Kerstin Wasson. The result? A big team of reserve staff, volunteers, and summer interns launched a study that found that the algal mats were leading to dieback of the salt marsh. (The team included “marsh monster” Miguel Rodriguez, pictured above; he went from summer intern to scientific aide and co-author on the paper.)
When marsh plants die, their roots no longer help to hold the bank together and large pieces of the bank to fall into the channel in response to strong tidal currents or wind-driven waves.
Marsh edges convert to mudflats, and in the face of sea level rise and low sediment volumes, this conversion is permanent. The study also linked exponential increases in algal mats over the past decades to similar increases in nitrate concentrations in the estuary and fertilizer sales in the county.
From Wells in Maine…
Crustacean curiosity and management need converge in recent publications out of the Wells Reserve. Working with scientists from the University of New Hampshire and the Maine Coastal Ecology Center, Research Coordinator Jason Goldstein published a study in the Journal of Crustacean Biology that found that in some areas of Maine’s world-famous lobster fishery, female lobsters may be maturing at smaller sizes, but aren’t capable of mating successfully. This could influence how fishery managers assess stock structure and recruitment in the future.
In another paper published in Fisheries Research, the team found that green crabs may compete with native and commercially important species such as lobsters. This finding may help guide management toward mitigation strategies to lessen the impact of green crabs, especially in New England waters.
From San Francisco Bay…
A recent pub out of the San Francisco Reserve tells the story of how a series of “atmospheric rivers” dumped tons of freshwater that lowered salinity levels and killed nearly all of the native Olympia oysters in the waters around China Camp. The story that’s less apparent in the article published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B is how this insight came to be. SWMP water quality data, a persistent graduate student named Brian Cheng who initiated oyster population surveys, and some well-timed fellowship funding all combined to help the reserve attribute the oyster die-off to the atmospheric rivers that came out of California’s recent wet winter.