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The Biogeography Branch of NOAA’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has established a Special Emphasis Watershed study in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico. This study is exploring the environmental effects that agricultural conservation practices implemented by farmers on the upland may have on the coral reef ecosystem. The partnership seeks to establish a collaborative long-term research and monitoring program for Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico to develop collective watershed and coral reef management and conservation options.
Figure 1. The Jobos Bay watershed located in southeastern Puerto Rico contains a National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is an effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quantify environmental effects of conservation practices. This project has established a CEAP Special Emphasis Watershed at the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Puerto Rico. Special Emphasis Watersheds are strategically located watersheds to quantify and demonstrate water quality and other environmental effects/benefits of conservation programs and to fill gaps in the existing CEAP-Watershed Assessment Studies program. This is the first CEAP Special Emphasis Watershed established in the tropics. It highlights the interaction between upland and coastal ecosystems, and involves a collaborative partnership between USDA and NOAA to address spatially complex natural resource issues in coastal environments. These special emphasis watersheds have ongoing research and demonstration efforts.
This project is the first in a coordinated research and demonstration program to meet the management and conservation objectives of both USDA and NOAA. The project also directly addresses goals and objectives of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force concerning land based sources of pollution and increasing partnerships for coral reef conservation. Current partners include USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), NOAA and the Government of Puerto Rico.
The partner agencies on this project are responsible for the following actions:
- ARS will lead research to quantify the effects of specific conservation practices on the delivery of water, sediment, and chemicals from agricultural lands to surface and shallow ground waters.
- NRCS will serve as the lead coordinating agency for this project and conduct outreach activities with the conservation partnership. NRCS will also assist the Puerto Rico Land Authority in implementation and development of innovative conservation practices with farmers.
- NOAA will lead in defining the state of Jobos Bay water quality, benthic habitats, and living marine resources. In addition, NOAA will collaborate with the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to monitor changes in these ecosystem components to assess the effects of implemented conservation practices.
Summit to Sea Analysis:
Land based pollution is commonly identified as a major contributor to the observed deterioration of shallow-water coral reef ecosystem health. This study will build on the Biogeography Branch's evolving Summit to Sea project for the characterization of coastal watersheds and implement its approach in the Jobos Bay watershed. Summit to Sea uses a Geographic Information System (GIS) based approach that links patterns of landscape use in coastal watersheds to sediment and pollutant predictions in the receiving waters of adjacent coral reef ecosystems.
Summit to Sea analysis employs the Nonpoint Source Pollution and Erosion Comparison Tool (N-SPECT), a GIS application generated by NOAA's Coastal Services Center (CSC), to predict water-quality impacts from nonpoint source pollution and erosion. Spatial data on land cover, topography, precipitation and soil characteristics are ingested into the watershed characterization tool. Water resource models and terrain analysis are applied to derive estimates of runoff as well as sediment and pollutant concentrations and sources across the landscape. N-SPECT provides an initial screening to identify areas on the landscape that may contribute most to nonpoint source pollution and present the greatest level of threat to the shallow-water coral reef ecosystem. These Summit to Sea products will inform USDA with specific areas in the Jobos Bay watershed to target for implementation of conservation practices.
Figure 2. Potential sediment deposition threat (red) from rivers with underlying benthic habitats.
Water Quality and Sediment Contaminant Assessment:
NOAA is coordinating the effort to design a sampling approach that will have the best potential for quantifying changes in Jobos Bay water quality, benthic habitats, and biota as a result of implementing innovative agricultural conservation practices. This includes a baseline assessment conducted by NOAA's Coastal Oceanographic Assessment, Status and Trends (COAST) prior to changing conservation practices in the watershed and subsequent monitoring to assess responses to altering agricultural practices. COAST will conduct estuarine surface water quality sampling for nutrients, pesticides and metals of concern following rain events to evaluate their role in pollutant transport into the estuary. In addition, a one-time sampling at 7-10 sediment sites in Jobos Bay will be used to quantify amounts of pesticides and metals of agricultural interest in estuary sediments.
Biogeography Branch and Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (JOBANERR) staffs are compiling a comprehensive description of historical and current monitoring efforts in Jobos Bay. Jobos Bay was the subject of a number of aquatic studies throughout the 1970's as part of an environmental study of the Aguirre Power Plant. A review of these studies provides historical discussions on the zooplankton, mangroves, sea grass and fish of Jobos Bay. Since 1996, the JOBANERR has routinely monitored for a uniform suite of water quality parameters and weather data such as rainfall. Continuous water quality monitoring stations automatically measure basic water quality parameters and a weather station registers basic climatic data. These on-going monitoring efforts, in combination with historic studies, establish a background for the current CEAP work.
We are actively seeking federal, state, local and academic partners to address the critical resource issues and other research areas as appropriate.
Ongoing: 2007 - June 2011
For More Information
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 ext 138
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 ext 236
Related Biogeography Projects
Summit to Sea Characterization of Coastal Watersheds