Research Project | 2016

Can large algal blooms associated with eutrophication and microbial respiration lead to estuarine acidification in Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve?

Awardee: Tiara Moore

Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Funding Source: La Kretz Center Graduate Grant

Estuaries are highly productive and diverse ecosystems that are important for humans as well as birds, fish and numerous other marine species. Estuaries can be greatly affected by anthropogenic disturbances, yet local California estuaries remain under studied. Evidence from estuary research suggests, however, that increased human populations within watersheds can lead to higher levels of nutrients entering estuaries at higher rates. This buildup of organic matter, often as a result of nutrient enrichment, is known as eutrophication. In California, estuaries may be particularly vulnerable to eutrophication as their watersheds, though small, typically are comprised of large human populations and/or extensive agricultural development. Ocean acidification normally occurs when excess atmospheric CO2, usually from anthropogenic sources, reacts with the surface ocean water and increases the amount of carbonic acid in the water. An alternative mechanism promoting acidification that has only recently been uncovered is an increase in CO2 due to microbial respiration driven by eutrophication. With the funding from the La Kretz center, I will be able to conduct a yearlong study to determine if there is a relationship between nutrient-stimulated eutrophication and estuarine acidification in the highly eutrophic Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve. Results of this study will lead to an understanding of the relationship between eutrophication and estuarine acidification, and provide vital management and restoration information.