Challenges & Opportunities Facing Rhode Island’s Biodiversity:
The Science Behind the Issues

March 12, 1999
Community College of Rhode Island–Flanagan Campus, Lincoln, RISpace and Time Scales of Shoreline Change Cape Cod National Seashore

James R. Allen
USGS-Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 15 State Street, Boston, MA 02109
Charles L. LaBash and Peter V. August
The University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science,
Environmental Data Center, 210-B Woodward Hall, Kingston, RI 02881

Cape Cod National Seashore is the prototype coastal park responsible for developing protocols to define natural resource data for the National Park Service’s Inventory & Monitoring Program. One of the highest priorities is that of measuring shoreline change trends and variability because of its controlling impact on cultural and natural resources, especially habitats of species of special concern. We are assembling a geo-rectified database describing Mean High Water shoreline positions from historical maps and aerial photography, which has been augmented since 1994 by differentially-corrected GPS surveys at annual, seasonal, and storm event-driven changes and subsequent recovery. Seventy-seven kilometers of shoreline change data for Cape Cod N.S. are calculated at 50m intervals using the Arc/Info GIS NEAR routine from a 400m offshore buffer reference line. This buffer offset is required because of drastic retreat from the century-old position compared to the 1972 USGS shore used as the baseline. Continued development of the database will allow for assessment of the spatial patterns and temporal rates of shoreline change, and major improvements to the management and protection of both natural and cultural resources of the park.

Helping Communities to Reduce Sprawl at the Local Level: Educational Tools and Research from the NEMO Project

Chester L. Arnold, Sandy Prisloe, and Joel Stocker
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, 1066 Saybrook Road, Box 70, Haddam, CT 06438

The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) Project is an effort of the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System, funded by the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and involving a partnership with Connecticut Sea Grant and the Department of Natural Resources Management and Engineering. NEMO is becoming a model for the use of technology-assisted education in confronting the difficult problem of nonpoint source pollution, or polluted runoff, associated with the suburban/urban sprawl pattern of growth prevalent across the nation. NEMO uses geographic information system (GIS), remote sensing (RS), and World Wide Web technology to educate community decision makers and landowners about the relationship of their land use decisions to water resource protection and watershed management. In Connecticut, NEMO programs have sparked real changes in local public policy and environmental stewardship including: changes to town plans, policies, and regulations; initiation of watershed management; inter-town cooperative efforts; award-winning school programs; research projects; and, open space preservation and planning. Nationally, NEMO is at the center of a growing network of education projects patterned after the Connecticut model. A new NASA Center focused on sprawl in the Northeast will be created in 1999, as a collaboration between NEMO, UConn’s Laboratory for Earth Resources Information Systems, and EPA Region One.

Ecological Considerations in Prioritizing Lands for Acquisition

Peter August, Alyson McCann, and Aimee Mandeville
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

The major institutional players in land conservation in Rhode Island are The Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Society, and the RI Department of Environmental Management. There has, however, been a rapid growth in the number of small, local conservation organizations, such as Land Trusts, that are becoming effective agents in purchasing land for open space. The Rhode Island land conservation community is fortunate in having access to many sources of funds that are dedicated to purchasing land and these include state and local bonds, private foundations, oil spill settlement funds, and monies specifically targeted for groundwater and wetlands protection. State, federal, and local conservationists are now in the position of having to decide which lands are most valuable for natural resource protection. The purpose of this presentation is to review the basic ecological principles that can be used to guide land prioritization activities. Specifically, we will discuss the following models to guide acquisition activities: (1) expanding the size of existing conservation areas in RI, (2) connecting existing conservation areas, (3) targeted acquisition projects based on rarity or vulnerability, (4) local “ecoregional” protection of representative ecosystems, (5) conservation of regions of high “potential” biodiversity, and (6) identifying regions of multiple co-occurring natural resources.

Conservation at the Threshold of the 21st Century

Robert Bendick
The Nature Conservancy, 222 S. Westmonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, FL 32789

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, during a period of rapid industrialization, Americans were intensely interested in conservation. John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt and others recognized that nature was no longer an all powerful adversary; people had the means to alter natural processes and destroy wilderness. The early conservationists (each in their own way) recognized and promoted our responsibility to care about and care for the natural world. Now, at the threshold of the 21st Century, there is renewed debate about the appropriate role of public and private organizations to act as stewards of our natural resources. While much has been learned about the function of natural systems and about the relationships of human well being to healthy natural resources, and while public opinion polls reveal overwhelming support for conservation, we continue to struggle to protect and restore nature. While the northeast and the southeast differ in the character of their landscapes and in their pace of growth and change, experiences in each region reveal lessons for conservation success. But while we can identify the best tools and techniques for protecting and restoring habitat for plants and animals, they will not be used effectively in the absence of leadership and without a broader public understanding of the multiple values of conserved areas.

Site Selection and Land Protection Approaches of the Nature Conservancy

Judith S. Benedict
The Nature Conservancy, 159 Waterman Street, Providence, RI 02906

The Nature Conservancy is a science-based conservation organization dedicated to preserving the full range of plants, animals, and natural communities by protecting the land and water they need to survive. Our work consists of three essential steps: 1) identifying the areas to be preserved; 2) acquiring the identified areas; and 3) managing those lands and waters to maintain or enhance their biodiversity. Based on the state’s Natural Heritage Program inventory and the Conservancy’s ecoregional planning process, the Rhode Island Field Office has identified eight focus areas within which we concentrate our protection efforts. A Site Conservation Plan (SCP) is written for each focus area. The plan 1) defines the ecological goals and identifies the key ecological processes of the site; 2) specifies all the potential threats–natural or man-made–that could affect or disrupt those processes; and 3) examines land-use and land ownership patterns to assess the feasibility of acquiring or otherwise protecting sufficient land to achieve the ecological goals. A conservation strategy is then crafted to deal with the threats and achieve the ecological goals. The strategy must define the physical extent of our actions, and be physically, financially, and politically feasible. The Conservancy works with a wide range of partners, and uses a variety of techniques and funding sources to preserve land.

Long-Term Geological Monitoring of the Rhode Island Shoreline: Understanding Beach Cycles, Headland and Barrier Change, and the Effects of Accelerated Sea-Level Rise

Jon C. Boothroyd , RI State Geologist
Department of Geosciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

The 33 km long microtidal shoreline of southern Rhode Island is a natural shoreline laboratory that is being used to track the effects of storm-fairweather cycles and extreme storm events, and to model the effects of accelerated sea-level rise due to global warming on barriers and headlands. Almost forty years of beach profile monitoring (13 stations) indicates strong seasonality (one-year cycle) at some stations, mixed on-off seasonality at others, and five to ten year patterns of variation (long-term cycles) at most locations. The last, definable long-term cycle reached peak accretion in 1995 with berm widening, eolian dune deposition, and the development of a temporary storage feature termed the backshore reservoir. Most beaches and associated barrier or headland cores have had a net loss of sediment until 1997, with erosion and removal of backshore reservoir material, and then moderate accretion to present. Mapping from vertical aerial photos indicates that erosional retreat of barriers ranges from 0.4-1.0 m yr-1 (1939-85), and headlands from 0.2-0.9 m yr-1, accomplished during sou’easter storm cycles and major hurricanes. Field mapping of barrier and headland changes after storm events (5-20 year storms) indicates that frontal erosion combined with washover sand accumulation have been underestimated as agents of change, particularly on headlands. Trimming of headland bluff and eolian foredune zone profiles allows a more dissipative supratidal zone, enhancing sedimentation in those areas. This effect was particularly pronounced during Hurricane Bob and the Halloween Nor’easter (The Perfect Storm), both in 1991. We have transferred these results to CRMC Special Area Management Plans. We also have modified the standard FEMA/NAS storm erosion configuration diagrams to better reflect actual changes. Data from the long-term monitoring allows us to better forward-model the effects on the shoreline resulting from projected sea-level rise due to global warming. We presently use an isostatic subsidence of 15 cm 100 yr-1 based on Newport, RI gauge records, and accelerated eustatic sea-level rise based on IPCC (1995) and EPA (1995) predictions that give 60 cm to 1.40 m rise by year 2100. Preliminary modeling results indicate very important overwash generated sedimentation on headlands (a sink) and serious sediment deficits in beach and shoreface areas (sources).

Monitoring of Rare Plant Populations

William E. Brumback, Conservation Director
New England Wild Flower Society, 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA 10701

Tracking of rare plants in all of the New England states was systematically instituted in the late 1970′s by the creation of the State Natural Heritage Programs, a public-private collaboration conceived by The Nature Conservancy. Now entirely governmental agencies, Natural Heritage Programs are responsible for monitoring the status of rare plants and animals in each state. Information on rare organisms and their habitats is stored in the Biological Conservation Database (BCD). Since funding and personnel for rare plants is sorely lacking, in 1991 the New England Wild Flower Society initiated the New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP) to prevent the extirpation and promote the recovery of the region’s rare plants. In order to help coordinate survey efforts, NEPCoP organized State Task Forces comprised of individuals knowledgeable in each state’s flora. Using the BCD as a guide, Task Forces select priority sites to be surveyed and direct conservation actions at these sites. Task Force members volunteer to update Element Occurrence (E.O.) records (records of the habitat occupied by a species) in the BCD by completing field survey forms at the sites. E.O. information is maintained by the Heritage Program; records of surveys and a next action year for each site are maintained by NEPCoP. Recently a new volunteer program, the Plant Conservation Volunteers (PCVs), has been established to expand both number of rare plant monitors and their roles in protecting the flora of New England. Monitoring of rare plants in the NEPCoP context usually consists of recording the number of individuals, their reproductive status, and any threats to an occurrence. The purpose is to provide an early warning so that management or other forms of intervention can be initiated before population numbers are reduced to critical levels. Examples of rare species surveys in Rhode Island will be presented along with the types of information contained in E.O. records.

Mount Hope Bay Monitoring Program: Analysis of Eight-Week Water Sampling of
Mt. Hope Bay

Paul Burt
Roger Williams University, Box 5964, One Old Ferry Rd., Bristol, RI 02809

An eight-week baseline sampling program was initiated in the fall of 1998 for all of the marine ecology laboratory classes at Roger Williams University. This monitoring program was created not only to further the students’ knowledge of water sampling techniques, but also to begin an ecological watch of Mount Hope Bay. The bay is located in a central part of southeastern New England, and plays an important role in the ecosystems around it. This research is based on the data compiled by these classes, and attempts to formulate an overall perspective of Mount Hope Bay’s current water quality. Parameters tested in this eight week program include nitrate, nitrite, reactive phosphate, total phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, and salinity. The data, when evaluated together, will provide an understanding of the degree to which Mount Hope Bay is polluted. Further sampling programs will be useful in evaluating the long-term ecological changes that are occurring within the bay.

Fisheries and Overfishing

Steven X. Cadrin, Research Fisheries Biologist
Northeast Fisheries Science Center, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543

Overfishing is a global problem. Most finfish and invertebrate stocks exploited in the northeast are overfished and at a low level of abundance. On a national level, 34% of fishery stocks are currently overfished and 46% are below the level that can produce long-term potential yield. The Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 mandated new national standards to avoid overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, reduce bycatch and conserve essential fish habitat. Overfishing is prevalent in most fishing areas of the world, and 30% of world fish stocks are overfished or depleted. Several international fisheries organizations have adopted a precautionary approach to fisheries management. Uncertainty is incorporated into management targets that are designed to have a low risk of exceeding sustainable catches and a high likelihood of maintaining critical stock sizes. Fisheries scientists are challenged to provide quantitative risk assessment of alternative management actions, while resource managers are confronted with the difficult task of harmonizing fishing capacity with resource sustainability.

Issues of Biological Control

Richard A. Casagrande, Professor of Entomology
Department of Plant Sciences University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

Roughly half of our insect pests and most of our weed species are not native to North America. These invasive species represent many of our worst agricultural pests and also threaten biodiversity in unmanaged habitats. Classical biological control programs strive to reunite these exotic species with natural enemies from their native range. This may offer the best solution to managing many of these pests. However, we must be aware of concerns about introducing additional exotic species into our local ecosystems. At URI we are involved with biological control programs on birch leafminer, cypress spurge, purple loosestrife, lily leaf beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, and Phragmites australis. The loosestrife and lily leaf beetle programs provide good examples of the host specificity research and state and federal regulatory issues that are currently involved in biological control of plants and insects.

The Global 200: A Representation Approach to Saving Life on Earth

Eric Dinerstein
Conservation Science Program, World Wildlife Fund–United States,
1250 24th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20037-1175

If we are truly committed to saving life on Earth rather than winning a few conservation battles, we must come up with a comprehensive global strategy to save biodiversity. To this end, WWF developed the Global 200, the first attempt to achieve representation of habitat types at a global scale. Our primary objective is to promote the conservation of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregions harboring globally important biodiversity and ecological processes. The Global 200 addresses this goal by identifying the world’s most outstanding examples within each major habitat type, such as tropical dry forests, large lakes, or coral reefs. The representation approach used to create the Global 200 integrates the goal of maintaining species diversity (the traditional focus of biodiversity conservation) with another level of conservation action–the preservation of distinct ecosystems and ecological processes. While it is true that more than half of all species are likely to occur in the world’s tropical rain forests, the other 50% of all species are found elsewhere. To conserve that half, a full representation of the world’s diverse ecosystems must be the goal. Tundra, tropical lakes, mangroves, and temperate broadleaf forests are all unique expressions of biodiversity. Although they may not support the rich communities seen in tropical rainforests or coral reefs, they contain species assemblages adapted to distinct environmental conditions and reflect different evolutionary histories. To lose examples of these assemblages, and the ecological processes and the evolutionary phenomena they contain, would represent an enormous loss of biodiversity. The Global 200 provides a blueprint for conserving the most distinct examples of nature on our planet.

Habitat Fragmentation

Richard W. Enser
Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908

Fragmentation is a process in which large tracts of habitat are transformed into a number of smaller patches that are isolated from each other by a variety of land uses unlike the original habitat. In many cases, the landscape surrounding habitat fragments is inhospitable to species of the original habitat and, if dispersal is also impeded, remnant patches become true habitat islands harboring isolated plant and animal communities. Several mechanisms have been identified that may contribute to local extinction of species from habitat fragments. These include; 1) fragments are smaller than the minimum home range or territory of certain species; 2) reduction in habitat diversity within fragments; 3) creation of barriers to dispersal between fragments; 4) negative impacts associated with increased amount of edge surrounding fragments; and, 5) disruption or elimination of ecological interactions within fragments. Drawing from the considerable amount of research that has been conducted on the impacts of habitat fragmentation in other areas, we can examine how this process is operating to reduce Rhode Island’s biotic diversity. Many studies have concentrated on birds, and predictions of local impacts to bird populations can now be made, the major forces being reduction of habitat (territory) and associated edge effects. However, an additional concern is the loss of dispersal opportunities for terrestrial animals, including mammals, herptiles and some insects, especially those of metapopulations where maintaining contact between habitat patches is crucial. In such circumstances, the fragmenting agent (e.g., roads) may remove relatively small amounts of habitat, but pose a significant barrier to movement and overall population integrity. A challenge for Rhode Island conservationists is to preserve as much of the state’s species pool as possible within the fragments of habitat that are constantly being created by expanding urbanization. Protocols for land acquisition have often relied on the presence of rare or endangered species or other unique natural features in prioritizing the use of limited funding; however, the necessity of retaining large unbroken tracts of habitat and maintaining dispersal opportunities for species that are not yet rare are two principal factors now being addressed in land protection planning.

Biological Invasion

Scott Ferson
Applied Biomathematics, 100 North Country Road, Setauket, New York 11733

Biological invasion consists of dispersal and establishment of a species into new habitats. Invasions include diverse processes such as range expansion, spread of epidemics, and introductions of exotics, all of which can induce irreversible changes in an ecological community. The pattern of invasion is determined by how fast the species can disperse and the extent of the invadable habitat. Dispersal is often modeled with percolation theory, as exemplified by the well known “Game of Life” often played on computer screens. We learn from such models that when offspring invade only adjacent areas, the invasion is rather slow because the advance is limited by the perimeter length of the range. When offspring can invade distant areas, however, then the invasion can be much faster because it is limited by the total abundance of the population. Despite their extreme complexity, the frontiers of invasions are not fractals as some have suggested. However, measuring the complexity of the frontier may let us directly compute the relative chance for establishment of an invasion. Invasion patterns are reviewed for laboratory examples and several famous cases are presented, including the starlings in North America, killer bees in South and Central America, and muskrat in Europe. For exotics and pest species, we are especially concerned with the chances of the population becoming large. We call the probability that a population grows to large abundances the “risk of population explosion.” Estimating this risk is the symmetrically opposite problem to estimating the risk of extinction, and similar mathematical methods can be employed for both problems.

Habitat Restoration: Issues, Examples, and Expectations

Francis C. Golet
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

There has been a long history of habitat loss and degradation in the northeastern United States; wetlands have been especially hard hit. Habitat restoration currently is viewed as the principal means for reversing this trend and for enhancing ecosystem integrity, both at individual sites and at the regional level. Essential ingredients of any successful habitat restoration project include: knowledge of the structure and functions of the target ecosystem, clear restoration objectives, a baseline ecological profile, a monitoring program for abiotic and biotic components, reference sites, a long-term commitment to management, criteria for evaluating success, clear public benefits, and cost-effectiveness. Two salt marsh restoration projects that represent opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size, complexity, and cost have been completed recently at Common Fence Point in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and at the Galilee Bird Sanctuary in Narragansett. Key issues that should be considered prior to launching a restoration project are: the size and landscape context of the site; the uniqueness or complexity of the ecosystem to be restored; the potential for invasive species; adverse impacts to adjacent property; ownership of the restoration site; and the desirability of a comprehensive, regional restoration strategy. The potential benefits of habitat restoration are great, but expectations should be realistic; restored wetlands seldom are functionally equivalent to natural wetlands. Avoidance of impacts to existing habitats is still the most effective approach to conservation of biodiversity.

Macroinvertebrates as Biological Indicators: Understanding Temporal Data Bases

Mark Gould and Jessica Davis
Department of Biology, Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI 02809

The use of benthic macroinvertebrates as indicator organisms for water quality evaluation has been a valuable tool for aquatic ecosystem monitoring. Unfortunately, long-term databases concerning stream biology and their corresponding chemical and physical parameters are not readily available and are rarely analyzed simultaneously. Since 1991, forty-five streams in Rhode Island have been sampled annually for macroinvertebrates utilizing standardized methodology. This research reports the temporal aspects of a station by examining the relationships between species as measured by biological metrics such as community similarity coefficients, feeding type, and ratios of particular organisms. The long-term trends are correlated with the physical/chemical parameters including hydrological data. A biological/chemical matrix is proposed to better elucidate long-term trends and potential causative agents.

Macroinvertebrates as Biological Indicators: The Utilization of Biometrics

Mark Gould, Jessica Davis, and Kathleen Fisher
Department of Biology, Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI 02809

Forty-five streams in Rhode Island have been sampled since 1991 for benthic macroinvertebrates to determine the baseline community structure. The streams were compared to a reference station by means of a series of biometrics such as community similarity coefficients, feeding type, and ratios of particular organisms. This research reports the annual station trends and the relationships of stream order and hydrological data to variations in biological composition.

Efficiency of Tidal Flushing at the Galilee Bird Sanctuary Salt Marsh Restoration Site, Narragansett, Rhode Island

Corrie Heinz, Francis Golet, and Dennis Myshrall
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

Between the fall of 1996 and the fall of 1997 several steps were taken to restore 23 ha of salt marsh in the Galilee Bird Sanctuary in Narragansett, Rhode Island. This coastal wetland had been largely cut off from tidal flow by construction of the Galilee Escape Route in 1956. Restoration efforts included removal of 6 ha of dredged material, recreation of a major tidal creek, construction of two greatly enlarged culverts, and construction of a network of 2-ft and 4-ft channels. The new culverts were opened in October 1997. In the summer of 1998 we monitored the efficiency of tidal flushing at 12 stations throughout the Sanctuary using cork dust tide gauges. High-tide levels at these stations were compared to high-tide levels north of the Escape Route, in Bluff Hill Cove. Flushing was generally efficient (<0.3 ft lower tide level than at Bluff Hill Cove) in the east and west regions of the Sanctuary because these areas are fed by major tidal creeks. Flushing was far less efficient (0.4 – 0.6 ft below Bluff Hill Cove) in the central and cul-de-sac regions. To maximize the area of restored marsh in the Central Region, we recommend that a tidal channel be constructed from the western tidal creek directly into this region. Extension of an existing tidal channel would improve flushing at station 2L, the only location in the west region where it was noticeably impaired. Because of the great distance between the culverts and the cul-de-sac region, there is no practical way to further enhance tidal flushing in that area.

Manage: A Community-Based Approach to Watershed Risk Assessment

Dorothy Q. Kellogg, Lorraine Joubert, Arthur Gold, and James Lucht
University of Rhode Island, Department of Natural Resources Science,
Cooperative Extension. Woodward Hall, Kingston, RI 02881

MANAGE is a watershed assessment tool using computer-generated maps to evaluate pollution risks of land use and landscape features. MANAGE provides a structured format for communities to evaluate pollution risks to locally-identified water resource protection priorities. The area of analysis can be a wellhead, an aquifer recharge zone, or watershed of a lake, wetland, or coastal embayment. Designed as a decision support system, MANAGE generates site-specific information needed to direct management actions considering current land use practices, future development impacts, and effectiveness of various stormwater and wastewater management controls. The Rhode Island Geographic Information System (RIGIS) land use and soil coverages provide the minimum basic data input for the analysis. Products of the assessment include: 1) pollution “hot-spot” mapping displaying high-intensity land uses in combination with natural features that together increase risk off-site nutrient movement; 2) nutrient loading to surface and groundwaters as a measure of relative cumulative impact; and 3) summary of watershed indicators rating pollution risk associated with land use and landscape features. MANAGE has been applied in partnership with local communities and The Nature Conservancy in several RI watersheds. Development of MANAGE has been funded by RI AquaFund, U.S. EPA, and USDA CSREES.

Watershed Monitoring

Margaret Kerr
Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay Campus, Narragansett, RI 02882

A watershed is the area of land that drains to the outlet of a lake, stream, river, estuary, or other waterbody. All land is in one watershed or another. Watersheds are defined by typography and hydrology which are ecological concepts and not by political boundaries. Rhode Island is a small, coastal state, with many small watersheds. During the past year, CRC has been working with the RI DEM and a variety of other interested stakeholders to develop a strategy for evaluating and managing the state’s watersheds. The resulting Watershed Approach provides a forum for integrating local interests with state and federal resources to identify and solve issues of concern within watershed areas. A rapid assessment of the watershed’s conditions is an essential first step of the watershed approach. The rapid watershed assessment is based on existing information on the watershed region. The completed assessment should integrate information already collected by a variety of management agencies and organizations as well as information provided by interested members of the public. This initial phase of the assessment is a critical opportunity for public outreach and participation on the watershed approach. During the assessment, new and existing data is reviewed, summarized and shared with local watershed groups. Priorities for management are identified for the watersheds in the region. The key components of a rapid assessment of the watershed region will be described with examples of how these analyses have been carried out:
1. Description of the geographic boundaries of the watersheds and sub-watersheds within the region.
2. Review of natural resources within the region. Should include information on their condition and uses and the degree of confidence in available information.
3. Review of policies and plans affecting resource management. Include summary of experiences to date in addressing watershed issues.
4. Options for action identified by participants during the assessment process.
5. Major information gaps and ongoing monitoring and research work in the region to fill information gaps.

Fish Biota of the Blackstone River at Four Stations in the Vicinity of Woosocket, Rhode Island: Five Years of Sampling

Grace Klein-MacPhee and Aimee A. Keller
U.R.I. Graduate School of Oceanography, Narragansett Bay Campus, Narragansett RI 02882-1197
Henry Rines
Applied Science Associates Inc., 70 Dean Knauss Drive, Narragansett RI 02882

We are conducting a fish survey at four stations along the Blackstone River to monitor fish populations above and below the intake structure of a cogeneration plant operated by Ocean State Power. Non-destructive sampling was conducted on 6 dates by seining, and electrofishing. We have completed 5 years of sampling, with an average of 13 species taken each year. A total of 17 different species were collected. The finfish population is typical of sluggish, low-gradient regions of rivers. There is some variation in abundance and species composition between years. In 1994 the most abundant species were white suckers, bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish; in 1998 the most abundant species were common shiners, bluegill sunfish, and tesselated darters. Trends noted over five years are a decrease in white suckers and an increase in common shiners. Species composition and diversity varies above and below the Thundermist dam, being lower above than below indicative of degraded habitat. Compared to a survey done in 1987, there appears to be a greater number of species present in 1994-98 (17 vs. 11), and a change in relative abundance perhaps indicating an improvement in water quality. Continued monitoring should reveal which factors are important in controlling the observed variation.

Acting Locally but Thinking Globally: Research and Educational Programs that Link Rhode Island to the World

Gaytha A. Langlois and Hong Yang
Department of Science and Technology, Bryant College, Smithfield, RI 02917

Ecological research projects and decision-making that address local situations often carry a global perspective as well. International collaboration on research and teaching can benefit local ecological projects through sharing unique resources, exchanging data, communicating ideas about ecological issues, and crafting effective resource management strategies. Practical issues on international research collaboration, such as selecting foreign collaborators, seeking funding resources, and choosing communication technology are discussed. Distance teaching on environmental policy through the Internet between Bryant College in Rhode Island and the European Humanities University in Belarus and ecological study trips focused on environmental issues in the People’s Republic of China will be illustrated. On-going collaborative research on monitoring several endangered species along the Yangtze River before and after the controversial Three Gorges Dam will be used as case analyses. Conservation programs and results of genetic studies on the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu et Cheng) are also presented.

Upper Duck Cove Pre-Restoration Monitoring

Gidget Loomis
Duck Cove Bluffs Association, 170 Duck Cove Road, North Kingstown, RI 02852
Kris Stuart and Robyn Long
Southern RI Conservation District, 60 Quaker Lane, Suite 46, Warwick, RI 02886

Tidal flow to the salt marsh of Upper Duck Cove in North Kingstown has been significantly restricted by the collapse of the culvert which connected it to Lower Duck Cove and Narragansett Bay. Neighborhood associations and the Southern RI Conservation District have assembled a funding package to plan, design and install practices to restore the marsh. As part of an Aqua Fund grant, a monitoring plan has been prepared to document pre- and post-restoration conditions of vegetation, soil, water salinity, and water elevation. The proposed poster will use maps, graphs and photos to describe the project and our findings to date.

Environmental Restoration and Protection Strategies at Multiple Scales in Rhode Island Watersheds

Suzanne Lussier, Henry Walker, Gerald Pesch, Walt Galloway
EPA Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882
Robert Adler
EPA Region I
Randy Comeleo, Jane Copeland
OAO Corporation, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882

EPA New England, in cooperation with New England states, natural resource specialists, and stakeholders has adopted an approach to help identify areas of healthy natural resources. Rather than focusing on remediation options for areas that are not sustaining aquatic life or human use, the “New England Resource Protection” approach focuses on identifying and protecting healthy ecosystems. Diverse stakeholders are involved in an open process designed to identify and characterize healthy ecosystems in both a human health and ecosystem context. The Clean Water Act assessment approach identifies areas that are not supporting desired uses (e.g., fishing or swimming). Using the Geographic Information System (GIS), we combined pertinent information from both approaches by adding information from the Rhode Island Resource Protection Project to Clean Water Act assessment data from the Pawcatuck Watershed to show where areas of nonattainment overlapped with valuable natural resources. At the subbasin scale in this watershed, areas of specific nonattainment can be identified and probable causes determined based on simple GIS analyses. Derived maps illustrate how public concerns, Clean Water Act reporting, and New England Resources Protection information can be integrated at state, watershed, and subbasin scales and communicated to the public.

The Use of GIS Technology in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Coastal Ecosystems Program

Andrew MacLachlan
U. S. Department of the Interior, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Southern New England Coastal Ecosystems Program P. O. Box 307, Charlestown, RI 02813

The Southern New England-New York Bight Coastal Program office of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps to provide regional and national perspectives to local conservation actions. By using GIS we provide alternative views of the landscape, such as a watershed or coastal/beach strand perspective, that often can better support a conservation action than do analyses and displays limited to state boundaries. This Coastal Ecosystems Program office of the Service is charged with identifying significant habitats, their related species, and the threats to them in the coastal and inland watershed regions from Cape Cod, MA, to Cape May, NJ. We can enhance natural resource protection efforts by providing data and biological opinions that offer direction and help set priorities for local actions, producing broader scale habitat conservation results. My talk will review several projects in southern New England and Long Island that use GIS tools. For example, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan has an international vision and funding for protecting wetland habitats and related species. But they need local municipal agencies and non-government organizations to succeed. Our office helps bring these groups together, using GIS to showcase planned conservation actions that relate to the international plans. The local Service refuge staff needs to produce a vision and management plan that incorporates local land management issues with a broader regional/national mandate. But the information available to make sound biological decisions is fragmented by three state governments and myriad academic and conservation groups that have collected information within their own project interests and limits. Using help from colleagues, and the GIS computer tools, the Coastal Program staff can identify, on local lands, significant habitats that support species important to both the state and national goals.

Definitions of Invasiveness: A Southern New England Plant Perspective

Leslie J. Mehrhoff
George Safford Torrey Herbarium
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box U-43
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3043

Biological invasions are well-documented phenomena. This is currently the hottest topic in conservation. Ecologists are increasing studies of these invading species and conservation organizations and government agencies are initiating monitoring and control programs against these invasions. President Clinton recently signed an Executive Order to coordinate federal efforts to study, combat, and disseminate information about invasive species. In spite of all the interest, the terminology of invasiveness has often been inconsistently applied. This leads to a potential for confusion, misunderstanding and indecision. Often scientists, conservationists and the public take for granted that each other knows, with the same degree of familiarity, about what the others are speaking. The biologic traits of invasive species will be discussed using plants as exemplars. Terms such as native species, non-native species, weeds, naturalized, and adventives will be discussed. Native and non-native species will be compared with respect to invasiveness. A three-level system of plant invasiveness (Highly Invasive, Invasive, and Potentially Invasive) being applied in Connecticut and the criteria used to distinguish between each level will be presented.

Community Trends Among Nanoplankton in the Pettaquamscutt River Estuary, Rhode Island

Sunshine Menezes and Paul Hargraves
Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

Nanoplankton comprise an important component of microbial loop dynamics. There are many species of heterotrophic and mixotrophic flagellates within this size fraction that mediate the transfer of carbon from bacteria to higher trophic levels. Therefore an understanding of the nanoplankton community structure may be a preliminary indicator of the nature of microbial loop interactions within a given ecosystem. There are very few data, however, regarding annual trends among the nanoplankton. A seasonal survey of nanoplankton biodiversity was begun to clarify taxonomic trends in the Pettaquamscutt River Estuary, Rhode Island. This ecosystem represents an interesting and convenient study site, as it is a small (~9 km long), easily accessible area, with a salinity gradient ranging from ~5 ppt to ~32 ppt, exclusive of groundwater intrusion. The Pettaquamscutt River is tidally flushed by Rhode Island Sound to the south, and receives surface freshwater input primarily from Gilbert Stuart Stream to the north, with lesser amounts from two brooks to the south. Preliminary trends in taxonomic diversity, chlorophyll a, nutrient concentrations, and physical characteristics are reported here for each of five stations along the salinity gradient of the estuary.

First-Year Vegetation Response at the Galilee Bird Sanctuary Salt Marsh Restoration Project, Narragansett, Rhode Island

Dennis Myshrall, Francis Golet, and Sean Feeley
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

Salt marsh restoration at the Galilee Bird Sanctuary was initiated in October 1997 with the enhancement of tidal flow into the area. The 50 ha Sanctuary was once dominated by salt marsh, tidal creeks, and ponds, but road construction in 1956 severely altered the site’s hydrologic regime. By 1991, only 3.5 ha of salt marsh remained; most of the Sanctuary had become brackish or freshwater wetland dominated by Phragmites australis and shrubs. In that year, we started an intensive monitoring program in the Sanctuary and in an adjacent natural salt marsh. We have recorded tide levels with computerized tide gages, sampled the structure and floristic composition of plant communities, and measured the abundance of Ruppia maritima in Sanctuary ponds. When tidal flow was reestablished, tidal ranges within the Sanctuary increased from 20 cm to almost 1 m. Vegetation changes in response to the enhanced tidal flushing also were dramatic. Phragmites height and biomass declined significantly throughout the Sanctuary; in many areas they were less than 50% of baseline values. In contrast, the height and biomass of Spartina alterniflora increased significantly. Ruppia cover declined markedly from 1996 to 1997. Increased turbidity, resulting from channel scouring and redistribution of sediments within the ponds, may be one explanation for the Ruppia decline.

Marine Bioinvasions

Nancy J. O’Connor
Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth,
285 Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth, MA 02747-2300

Introductions of marine species beyond their natural geographic range by human beings has likely occurred for as long as humans have traveled by ship. However, the frequency and primary mechanisms of successful introductions have varied over time, as the shipping industry has changed and grown. Today, the primary mechanism of introduction of marine species is via release of ballast water, the water taken on-board ship while at port to provide balance and stability while at sea. Algal spores, larval stages of invertebrates, and adult organisms in ballast water may survive the trip, and be released in a new port thousands of miles away. There are many examples of species that were likely introduced via ballast water release. The potential effects of non-native species on resident species are numerous and varied, including direct species interactions (predation, competition, disease and parasitism), indirect interactions among species, and habitat alteration. A new invasive species in Rhode Island is the crab Hemigrapsus sanguineus, first found near Cape May, New Jersey in 1988. The crab is native to the western North Pacific Ocean, and probably was introduced to the western Atlantic coast by ballast water release. H. sanguineus inhabits rocky intertidal and shallow subtidal areas, which abound in New England. The crab is omnivorous, consuming algae as well as crustaceans, gastropods, and bivalves, including species important in aquaculture. Preliminary data suggest that as the abundance of H. sanguineus in the rocky intertidal has increased, the relative abundances of other crab species have decreased. Potential effects of H. sanguineus on the rocky intertidal ecosystem include direct and indirect effects on resident species, and are the subject of on-going studies.

The Role of the North Atlantic Oscillation in Climate Variability: Ecology and Estuarine Resource Species in Rhode Island

Candace A. Oviatt
University of Rhode Island, Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory,
Narragansett Bay Campus, Box 9, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882

A recent climate warming trend in Rhode Island waters can be correlated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. In every season water temperatures have increased but the biggest increase has occurred during winter. The North Atlantic Oscillation refers to the changing intensity of low pressure over Iceland and high pressure over the Azores. In the high positive state NAO, the westerlies are intensified, resulting in warmer winters over the eastern United States. In the low negative state NAO, the westerlies are weak and the temperature anomalies are reversed. Over the past 15 years, an unprecedented strongly positive NAO index has occurred. This pattern has caused warmer winter conditions in Rhode Island waters. Correlated with this, are recent failures in the winter-spring diatom bloom and changes in resource species in Rhode Island waters. When temperatures remain at 3o C or higher all winter, no diatom bloom occurs. Resource species like the winter flounder, which avoided early life stage predators by spawning during the coldest portion of the year, have suffered a severe decline. Other resource species like the American oyster which needs sustained high temperatures for spawning have repopulated Narragansett Bay after an absence of four decades.

The Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Role in the Conservation of the American Burying Beetle

Ming Lee Prospero
Roger Williams Park Zoo, 1000 Elmwood Avenue, Providence, RI 09207

In 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI (RWPZ), established a breeding program for the endangered American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus). American Burying Beetles (ABB) are now only found on Block Island, RI, and in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The beetles propagated at RWPZ, have been annually reintroduced to their historic habitat on Nantucket Island, MA, since 1995. The first reintroduction occurred in 1994 when 26.22 ABBs raised at Boston University were released. In 1995, RWPZ produced 75.46 ABBs for release; in 1996, after a population crash, 12.7 were released; in 1997, 56.67 were released, and in 1998, 31.27 were released. In 1998, ages of released beetles were recorded and their outcome monitored. The majority of young animals (under three weeks old), failed to produce larvae at the time of the check 15 days later. A greater percentage of older ABBs (4 months old) did produce larvae. Our goal for the 1999 season is to reintroduce a minimum of 100 ABBs (50 pairs), which have eclosed at least 4-6 weeks prior to release. Our collection was supplemented on four occasions by wild stock collected from Block Island. The reasons for the captive fluctuations at RWPZ are, at this time, undetermined.

Amphibian Community Structure at a Seasonal Pond on Trustom Pond National
Wildlife Refuge

Sara Stevens, Linda Longo, and Peter W. C. Paton
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

In Rhode Island, only one quantitative study has investigated amphibian community structure at a seasonal (vernal) pond. Recent research suggests that amphibians breeding in seasonal ponds may be experiencing widespread population declines. We used a drift fence array to monitor a pond from 6 March to 11 October 1998 (220 consecutive mornings) on Trustom Pond NWR, Charlestown, Rhode Island. We captured 5,122 amphibians in 10,560 trap nights (0.485/trap night). Estimated population sizes and productivity estimates for anurans were: Rana sylvatica (624 adults, 18 metamorphs), R. clamitans (39 adults, 383 metamorphs), R. palustris (35 adults, 23 metamorphs), R. catesbeiana (14 adults), Hyla versicolor (13 adults, 9 metamorphs), Pseudacris crucifer (340 adults, 22 metamorphs); while caudate population estimates were: Hemidactylium scutatum (12 adults), Notophthalmus viridescens (102 adults, 247 efts, and 140 metamorphs), and Ambystoma maculatum (132 adults, 108 metamorphs). Movement chronology was quantified for all taxa and will be discussed. This research shows that the Ninigret NWR Complex provides critical habitat for amphibians in southern Rhode Island.

Economic Value of Habitat Conservation Through Open Space Preservation in Richmond, Rhode Island

Stephen K. Swallow
University of Rhode Island, Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics,
Kingston, RI 02881

This presentation will consider some of the economic aspects of the preservation of habitats through a look at the public value for open space preservation in the Town of Richmond, RI. In Richmond, the economic value of open space preservation was estimated based on 1301 responses from 76% of 340 registered voters who received a mail survey. Each question asked respondents to consider stylized descriptions of two parcels of land that the town might preserve. Parcel descriptions included land (habitat) type, location, ecological or scenic uniqueness, ownership and public access after preservation, and taxpayers’ cost. Results indicate that the public prefers preservation along rivers or water bodies, preservation of wetlands and relatively natural lands, ecologically and scenically unique land, and town ownership and control of access. Results show that not all parcels of open space were of equal value to respondents. Taxpayers are willing to pay for preservation of some parcels, with values ranging between $10 and $30 per household per year for 5 years, depending upon the characteristics of the parcel. Ecological uniqueness played a leading role in the public’s willingness to pay for preservation, but their willingness to provide financial support increased by 10% to 70% if preservation would allow public access under town control. The presentation will also propose the use of economic data to design incentives for developers to preserve more valuable parcels of land by choosing to focus development on less valuable parcels of open space.

Movement Ecology of Amphibian Metamorphs at Two Seasonal Ponds in Rhode Island

Brad C. Timm, William B. Crouch III, and Peter W. C. Paton
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

We quantified the movement ecology of amphibian metamorphs (i.e., young) at two ponds in 1997 and 1998. We encircled both ponds with drift fence arrays and checked both sites every morning from early March through mid-November. At the Beaver River Pond, we captured 2,676 individuals in 1997 from 10 species (2,033 metamorphs dominated by 1,356 Ambystoma opacum), and in 1998 there were 2,948 individuals (1,689 metamorphs dominated by 1,177 Bufo americanus young). The pond in Arcadia Management Area in 1997 had 3,581 captures from 11 species (2036 metamorphs dominated by 1750 Rana clamitans) compared to 1741 captures from 12 species in 1998 (only 197 metamorphs dominated by 87 A. maculatum). Movements of metamorphs away from the ponds was highly correlated with precipitation, with most departures occurring prior to the ponds drying completely. We documented extreme temporal segregation in metamorph movements; A. opacum were the first species to emerge, followed by R. sylvatica, R. clamitans, A. maculatum, Notophthalmus viridescens, and B. americanus were the last to depart. Emergence appeared to be random; as there was no consistency in metamorph departure directions. The departure chronology of metamorphs appears to be the only aspect of their movement ecology that is relatively predictable.

Early Revegetation and Avian Use at a Salt Marsh Restoration Site, Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Carol Trocki, Francis Golet, Dennis Myshrall, and James Gass
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

During the summers of 1997 and 1998, we assessed plant recolonization and avian use at a newly restored 2-hectare coastal salt marsh at Common Fence Point in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Percent cover of individual plant species was measured in 131 1 meter square quadrats laid out in a systematic fashion along 20 transects. Height and stem counts were recorded for Spartina alterniflora and Phragmites australis. We surveyed birds once a week at high and low tide. A nearby, densely vegetated, reference marsh was also surveyed for comparison. Total vegetated cover of the restoration site increased from 2.3% in 1997 to 10.1% in 1998. Plant species richness increased from 7 species to 14 species. In 1998, P. australis cover exceeded that of S. alterniflora. The bird community at the restoration site was dominated by shorebirds and songbirds in both 1997 and 1998; 20 wetland dependent species were observed over the 2 years. In 1998, the reference marsh supported predominantly songbirds, with waders and gulls and terns to a lesser degree. Shorebirds occurred in greatest abundance at the restoration site at high tide in 1998. Semi-palmated Plover was, by far, the most abundant species. As the restoration site becomes more fully vegetated, avian community structure is likely to more closely resemble the reference marsh. This research demonstrates that a newly restored salt marsh can support a diverse bird community and provide valuable shorebird habitat.

Fostering Wetland Science in the Rhode Island Community: The RIAWS-ASRI Training Workshops

James Turek
VHB, Inc., 530 Broadway, Providence, RI 02909
Christopher Mason
Mason & Associates, Inc., 771 Plainfield Pike, Scituate, RI 02857

In 1998, the Rhode Island Association of Wetland Scientists (RIAWS) in partnership with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island (ASRI) conducted four one-day wetland training workshops with the assistance of a U.S. EPA Environmental Education Grant. The purpose of this partnership program was to help educate the Rhode Island community about wetland science and values. These field-oriented workshops, held at several ASRI-owned refuges, were designed to teach fundamental concepts of wetland structure and function to a target audience of high school teachers and local government officials. The strategies for achieving the overall goal of the program were to: (1) assist teachers in developing an environmental curriculum for their students; (2) help municipal government officials better understand wetland definition and values relative to land use decision making; (3) relay results of the field exercises by providing useful information to ongoing educational programs at the ASRI refuges; and (4) collect baseline environmental data at the ASRI refuges that can serve as valuable wetland reference sites for better understanding ecological functions, including serving as habitats that support biodiversity. The format of the workshops consisted of brief on-site classroom presentations followed by field exercises in which participants were actively involved in data collection. The workshops consisted of four core training areas: wetland hydrology and geomorphology, hydric soils, wetland plant ecology, and wetland functions and values, focusing on aquatic biota and wetland-dependent wildlife habitat functions. The field exercises were designed so participants could learn through hands on data collection that did not necessarily require in-depth knowledge of plant or animal species identification, soils taxonomy, geology, or geomorphology. The workshops provided participants with an opportunity not only to learn about wetland science, but also to hone their skills in applying methods to collect environmental data and in accurately recording and analyzing data. Participant evaluations revealed that RIAWS was successful in achieving the objectives of the program, even though the two target audience groups had distinctly different learning needs. The workshops also provided a valuable forum for the instructors (primarily regulators and consultants) to learn from the high school science teachers about the process of developing and implementing a focused curriculum, and from local government officials on the political and management hurdles often affecting environmentally-sound land use decisions.

Grateloupia Doryphora in Rhode Island Waters: Current Status, Recruitment and Growth

Martine Villalard-Bohnsack
Biology Department, Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI 02809
Marilyn M. Harlin
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881

Grateloupia doryphora (Rhodophyta) was recorded for the first time on the northeastern coast of North America in 1996. This large, foliose, invasive, red alga was found attached to rocks, pebbles and shells in the southern portions of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, USA. Since then, an on-going monitoring program has shown that its range has extended in the bay; north to Prudence Island and Bristol Harbor, west from the Graduate School of Oceanography beach down to Black Point on Rhode Island Sound, and south east to Brenton Point (Rhode Island Sound). Dense populations are found in the lower intertidal (up to +0.2 m Mean Low Water) and in the subtidal zone (down to -4 m MLW). Prudence Island populations include specimens over 100 cm long by 30 cm wide. Quantitative data from quadrats, artificial substrata and laboratory cultures indicate that although tetraspores and carpospores are released throughout the year, recruitment occurs primarily from August to November. Blades also grow year round from crusts. Growth rates are being measured and will be discussed in the poster. The largest G. doryphora percent coverage occurs in November, and the smallest in May.