Ferries Keep Watch on Coastal Water
Researchers in North Carolina are developing a new approach to understanding the behavior of a critical waterway, the Pamlico Sound. Hans Paerl, Kenan Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences The Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) focuses on marine science-related education and research. IMS was founded in 1975 on the Erdemli Campus at METU (Middle East Technical University) in Erdemli / Mersin. in Morehead City, and Joseph S. Ramus ramus /ra·mus/ (ra´mus) pl. ra´mi [L.] a branch, as of a nerve, vein, or artery.
ramus articula´ris , a professor of biological oceanography oceanography, study of the seas and oceans. The major divisions of oceanography include the geological study of the ocean floor (see plate tectonics) and features; physical oceanography, which is concerned with the physical attributes of the ocean water, such as at Duke University in Durham, have put together an innovative project called FerryMon to use that state's extensive coastal ferry system to actively monitor water quality in the rivers and open waters of the sound. The system connects the mainland with the state's barrier islands (the Outer Banks) and crosses rivers in historically rural coastal North Carolina.
The sound, a broad body of water touching land, sea, and freshwater environments, is part of the extensive Albemarle-Pamlico estuary system, where rivers from Virginia and North Carolina flow to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second largest estuary in the United States, smaller only than the nearby Chesapeake Bay system. "The Pamlico Sound is the single most important fisheries nursery for the U.S. Atlantic coast," Paerl says. "It also handles about half of the freshwater runoff for the state of North Carolina."
Nutrient loads in the freshwater runoff are increasing, though, Paerl says. "The coast is experiencing growth, and all growth-related activities are impacting on the estuarine es·tu·a·rine
1. Of, relating to, or found in an estuary.
2. Geology Formed or deposited in an estuary.
Adj. 1. estuarine - of or relating to or found in estuaries
estuarial system." Wholesale land use change throughout the state including; increased urbanization has resulted in excess nitrogen draining into the estuary.
Excess nitrogen promotes eutrophication eutrophication (ytrō'fĭkā`shən), aging of a lake by biological enrichment of its water. In a young lake the water is cold and clear, supporting little life. , or accelerated biologic production in coastal waters. Eutrophication can fundamentally change the ecology of the coast by stimulating algal blooms and affecting the life cycles of economically important fish, shellfish, and marine plants. There's a grand-scale experiment going on with respect to excess nutrients," Ramus says. "But the bottom line is, we don't have a clue how the Pamlico Sound system, which receives drained water from across the state, functions [to process nutrients] in the first place."
Environmental shifts can also lead to changes in dissolved organic carbon Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is a broad classification for organic molecules of varied origin and composition within aquatic systems. The "dissolved" fraction of organic carbon is an operational classification. Many researchers place the dissolved/colloidal cutoff at 0. . Dissolved organic carbon is correlated to the presence of fecal coliform bacteria such as Escherichia coli and disease-bearing organisms such as Vibrio vibrio
Any of a group of aquatic, comma-shaped bacteria in the family Vibrionaceae. Some species cause serious diseases in humans and other animals. They are gram-negative (see and Clostridium clostridium
Any of the rod-shaped, usually gram-positive bacteria (see gram stain) that make up the genus Clostridium. They are found in soil, water, and the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. Some species grow only in the complete absence of oxygen. species, says Ramus.
The FerryMon project will measure water quality indicators, day in and day out Adv. 1. day in and day out - without respite; "he plays chess day in and day out"
all the time , along well-defined routes across the extensive body of water. Over time, measurements will characterize baseline water quality within the sound, allowing researchers to study how environmental changes ranging from alterations in nutrients to arrival of sudden storms affect the sound's water quality and how the estuary rebounds from these changes. This knowledge will provide insight for remediating the environmental and health effects of ecological change on the coast.
A Fleet of Opportunity
Water monitoring within the Pamlico, Sound has traditionally taken advantage of fixed sampling sites including coastal locations and stationary buoys. FerryMon brings a new dimension to water sampling. "The sound is huge," says Paerl "It's 1,700 square miles, and it's shallow, so it can be unfriendly to small boats. But the state has a `fleet of opportunity' in the ferries, and they cut across the sound in some very strategic places." By fitting sampling equipment on the passenger/ automotive ferries traveling established routes through the sound, the researchers have gained a new platform for frequent water quality sampling.
FerryMon depends on low-maintenance equipment produced by the Massachusetts-based environmental monitoring device designer Endeco/YSI Incorporated, a corporation that develops hardy monitoring systems for long-term environmental deployment. The "black box" equipment (so called because the user doesn't need to know anything about it to operate it) is stashed in the ferry's sea chest and samples sound water drawn in through cooling water intakes, "The chief engineers who serve on the individual ferries do a little daily operational preparation for the system," says Dan Noe of the North Carolina Department of Transportation The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is responsible for building, repairing, and operating highways, bridges, and other modes of transportation, including ferries. Ferry Division, who is working with Ramus and Paerl to outfit the ferries. "But that involves maybe five minutes in the evening and one minute in the morning. So it's pretty inconsequential as far as our workload is concerned."
The system can be installed without interfering with normal ferry operations. It actively monitors a number of water quality indicators including salinity, temperature, turbidity turbidity /tur·bid·i·ty/ (ter-bid´i-te) cloudiness; disturbance of solids (sediment) in a solution, so that it is not clear.tur´bid
The cloudiness or lack of transparency of a solution. , dissolved oxygen, pH, and chlorophyll content (a measure of phytoplankton phytoplankton
Flora of freely floating, often minute organisms that drift with water currents. Like land vegetation, phytoplankton uses carbon dioxide, releases oxygen, and converts minerals to a form animals can use. biomass). The system records the data as the ferry travels its route throughout the day, then uses a cell phone modem to send the results to a computer in Ramus's laboratory each evening. The monitoring tools also include a refrigerated collector that allows for transporting water samples to the laboratory for further analysis such as measurement of dissolved organic carbon and microbiologic examination.
Monitoring from the ferry M/V M/V Motor Vehicles
M/V Motor Vessel
M/V Merchant Vessel Floyd J. Lupton, which makes a 20-minute passage across the mouth of the Neuse River 40 times a day, has been ongoing since September 2000. The ferry M/V Carteret, which makes a passage of more than two hours between the Outer Banks island of Ocracoke and the mainland town of Cedar Island to the southwest, began monitoring water quality the next winter, in February. The ferry M/V Governor Edward Hyde, which travels northwest from Ocracoke to the town of Swan Quarter, will begin automated water quality monitoring in the near future.
Paerl says funding for outfitting the first three ferries has come from state dollars set aside for relief from Hurricane Floyd, the 1999 storm that precipitated massive floods across eastern North Carolina Eastern North Carolina or (often abbreviated as ENC) is the region of North Carolina which includes the eastern third of North Carolina. It includes the Outer and Inner banks, thus it is often known geographically as the state's coastal region. and considerable runoff of nutrient-rich water into the sound. According to Ramus, the initial cost of outfitting a ferry was about $40,000, but improvements have lowered the cost to about $30,000 for each new boat that comes on line, There are additional laboratory costs for nutrient, dissolved organic carbon, and chlorophyll analyses, as well as costs for data management, says Paerl.
In addition to the water sampling, other types of data are used to take a "snapshot" of the sound, Ramus says. "We also want to see the whole surface of the sound, so we rely on remote indicators such as ocean color and sea surface temperature Sea surface temperature (SST) is the water temperature at the surface. In practical terms, the exact meaning of "surface" will vary according to the measurement method used. that are recorded by satellite." Coordination of such data with Global Positioning System Global Positioning System: see navigation satellite.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Precise satellite-based navigation and location system originally developed for U.S. military use. satellites allows precise measurement of the positions at which samples are taken by each of the ferries. This information will be useful for calibrating satellite data, thus making the satellite data more interpretable.
Waves of Information
Monitoring from the ferries will not give a complete picture of the sound, however. "As long as people realize the limitations of sampling methods, it is possible to get useful data," says Kevin Summers, who runs the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA EPA eicosapentaenoic acid.
n.pr See acid, eicosapentaenoic.
n. ) Coastal 20.00 program, a five-year effort to coordinate water quality, sediment quality, and biologic indicators in 24 coastal states and Puerto Rico to characterize U.S. estuaries and how they behave over time, "The concern would be that someone would take the data from the ferry routes and use it to extrapolate to the whole North Carolina coast," he says.
Coastal 2000 provides a complement to the ferry data, using probabilistic methods to choose sample sites from varied statistically selected representative sites along the coast. This avoids the problem of overreliance on data from individual sites that may prove unrepresentative of the coast as a whole. Coastal 2000 records data from waterways around the United States, including North Carolina's coasts, in the EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program database, a research tool that compiles ecologic data for trends and status analysis. The data collected by the FerryMon project will be made available to the public. Data from both approaches are already available to the scientific community from the researchers and the EPA (the EPA data are part of the Coastal Assessment & Data Synthesis System maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Noun 1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - an agency in the Department of Commerce that maps the oceans and conserves their living resources; predicts changes to the earth's environment; provides weather reports and forecasts floods and hurricanes and , available online at http://cads.nos.noaa.gov/).
FerryMon is the first effort to use regular ship routes to monitor water quality along several transects in a relatively compact area. However, it is not the first to use ferries to monitor water quality. Since 1992 the Finnish Institute of Marine Research The Finnish Institute of Marine Research (FIMR) (Finnish: Merentutkimuslaitos and Swedish: Havsforskningsinstitutet has used long-range passenger ferries (including the GTS Finnjet, one of the largest ferries in the world) to measure water quality indicators and to sample phytoplankton in the Baltic Sea between Helsinki and Travemunde, Germany. The Finnish work illustrates both the power and the problems of this approach. Gathering data over the very long distances--more than 600 miles--traveled by the trans-Baltic ferry produces a remarkably detailed picture of water quality along the ferry's transect tran·sect
tr.v. tran·sect·ed, tran·sect·ing, tran·sects
To divide by cutting transversely.
[trans- + -sect. , but not away from it. Since ferry routes are fairly constant, a great deal of data is collected about a very limited segment of the sea, while the characterization of nearby water remains relatively data-poor.
Within these limitations, though, the ferry systems may prove to be more generally valuable for monitoring water quality indicators in coastal areas. Paerl notes that there is interest around the United States, particularly in coastal areas of the northeast and northwest, in developing similar ferry-based water monitoring systems. And in North Carolina, the program is welcomed by those who make their living on the waters. "On their time off," Noe notes, "most of the guys who work on the ferries go boating or fishing or crabbing or shrimping. They are very aware of water quality and are behind this one hundred percent. They see that anything that can be done to help the water quality can't be anything but helpful in the long run."
Leppanen J-M J-M Jelinski-Moranda (reliability model) , Rantajarvi E, Maunumaa M, Larinmaa M, Pajala J. Unattended algal algal
pertaining to or caused by algae.
is very rare but systemic and udder infections are recorded. See protothecosis.
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Paerl HW, Bales JD, Ausley LW, Buzzelli CP, Crowder LB, Eby LA, Go M, Peierls BL, Richardson TL, Ramus JS. Recent hurricanes result in continuing ecosystem impacts on USA's largest lagoonal estuary: Pamlico Sound, NC. EOS Eos (ē`ŏs), in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of dawn; daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. Every morning she arose early and preceded her brother Helios into the heavens. Trans Am Geophys Union 81:457, 459,462 (2000).
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