Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Estuarine water quality in parks of the Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network: Development and early implementation of vital signs estuarine nutrient-enrichment monitoring, 2003-06

May 20, 2012

This report documents results of pilot tests of a protocol for monitoring estuarine nutrient enrichment for the Vital Signs Monitoring Program of the National Park Service Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network. Data collected from four parks during protocol development in 2003-06 are presented: Gateway National Recreation Area, Colonial National Historic Park, Fire Island National Seashore, and Assateague Island National Seashore. The monitoring approach incorporates several spatial and temporal designs to address questions at a hierarchy of scales. Indicators of estuarine response to nutrient enrichment were sampled using a probability design within park estuaries during a late-summer index period. Monitoring variables consisted of dissolved-oxygen concentration, chlorophyll a concentration, water temperature, salinity, attenuation of downwelling photosynthetically available radiation (PAR), and turbidity. The statistical sampling design allowed the condition of unsampled locations to be inferred from the distribution of data from a set of randomly positioned "probability" stations. A subset of sampling stations was sampled repeatedly during the index period, and stations were not rerandomized in subsequent years. These "trend stations" allowed us to examine temporal variability within the index period, and to improve the sensitivity of the monitoring protocol to detecting change through time. Additionally, one index site in each park was equipped for continuous monitoring throughout the index period. Thus, the protocol includes elements of probabilistic and targeted spatial sampling, and the temporal intensity ranges from snapshot assessments to continuous monitoring.