Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016NC198B

Role of organic nitrogen to eutrophication dynamics along the Neuse River Estuary, NC

Institute: North Carolina
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: Not available

Principal Investigators: Hans Paerl, Alexandria Hounshell

Abstract: Nutrient over-enrichment is a broadly recognized problem in estuarine ecosystems. Harmful effects include eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia/anoxia, and fish kills, which negatively impact the resources (fisheries, recreation, tourism) and sustainability of impacted systems. In many estuarine ecosystems, including North Carolina’s Neuse River Estuary (NRE), nitrogen (N) is the principal limiting nutrient for primary production (Rudek et al., 1992; Paerl, 2009). Increased N loading to the NRE due to accelerated urbanization and agricultural and industrial activities in the watershed has led to increased algal biomass, including harmful algal blooms, and habitat degradation (Paerl et al., 2009). In ecosystems that exhibit accelerating eutrophication, including the NRE, total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) have been developed to reduce inorganic N loading (Paerl et al., 2004). While progress has been made in reducing inorganic N loading, a parallel increase in organic N (ON) has been reported in watersheds undergoing human development (Pellerin, et al., 2006). A specific example is the NRE, where Lebo et al. (2011) documented a decrease in inorganic N loading since the introduction of the TMDL in 1999, but a proportional increase in ON loading.