Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015NH191B

Improved Ecosystem Indicator Tools for Water Quality Management – Genomic Analysis of Periphyton to Identify Stressors

Institute: New Hampshire
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $12,040 Total Non-Federal Funds: $24,079

Principal Investigators: Alison Watts, WKelley Thomas

Abstract: This proposal will build on an existing pilot study to further explore the use of attached algae as a water quality indicator, using genomic analysis to identify a wide range of species and function. The taxonomic data will be correlated to water quality stressors, including water chemistry, land use, and pollutant load to identify species classes or characteristics indicative of identifiable stresses (e.g. nutrient load). If these indicators can be established, attached algae monitoring may be an effective and economical method of enhancing existing monitoring programs. Algae monitoring has been successfully correlated to nutrient load, impervious cover and other stressors in numerous studies. Advances in genomic technology offer an opportunity to develop more extensive data sets, with high replicability at lower cost. The results of this study will directly inform an inter-municipal watershed management plan currently being developed. Specifically, we will: • Evaluate the effectiveness of attached algae as an indicator of ecosystem stress. • Determine if species distribution or other characteristics (especially freshwater to saltwater transition) can be used to differentiate between probable stressors (e.g. P vs N). • Work with municipalities to adapt the local watershed plan to address identified stresses. This will introduce three new facets to the existing regional monitoring program; the use of attached algae as a monitoring indicator; transitory community effects from stressors across a salinity gradient; and the application of innovative genomic technology to identify both the taxonomy and the function of prevalent algae. The goal of this project is to determine the value of attached algae monitoring as a biologic indicator of ecosystem health and as a method of identifying stressors which can be targeted with management actions, and to develop recommended management actions which would be triggered by specific algae conditions such as nutrient stress, or early onset of invasive species.