Assessing Change in Rhode Island’s Ecosystems
March 7, 2003
Rhodes On-the-Pawtuxet, Cranston, RI

QUATERNARY GEOLOGIC MAPPING IN THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT OF NORTHERN RHODE ISLAND

Jon C. Boothroyd
Department of Geosciences and RI Geological Survey
University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881; jon_boothroyd@uri.edu

We are upgrading 7 1/2 minute Quaternary geologic maps for the highly urbanized area of northern Rhode Island as part of the program to produce a Quaternary Geologic Map for Rhode Island. Published USGS quadrangle maps exist, the result of a cooperative program with the state of Rhode Island from 1950 to 1965. However, many maps are at 1:31,680 scale on pre-World War II topographic bases. We have completed an upgrade of the Providence 7 1/2 by 15 minute quadrangle utilizing a 1987 digital 1:25,000 scale metric base with all data input into a GIS mapping system (MapInfo™).

We utilized the Providence 1:31,680 surficial map (Smith, 1956), the digital topo base mentioned above, older 1:24,000 paper topo base maps (Providence and East Providence), 1:24,000 scale groundwater maps, and 1997 1:5,000 scale orthophotographs. We also used significant aquifer coverage and other cultural data from the RI Geographic Information System (RIGIS). New field mapping was carried out in Rhode Island portion of the East Providence quadrangle and field checks were made in the Providence quadrangle. Lack of field exposures in this urbanized area was partially compensated for by examining lithofacies and other data obtained from bore holes. Others are organizing borehole data, the result of past road and bridge construction, ongoing road realignments and new sewer system construction, into a comprehensive database in a cooperative project with the RI Department of Transportation.

We found that migrating the digitized map units from the 1:31,680 topo base to the 1:25,000 metric base produced a mismatch of older units to newer topography, necessitating extensive movement of polygons with field checks. The topography on the older 1:24,000 topo bases was far superior to the newer 1:25,000 digital metric base and was used as a “patch” to aid in placement of polygons. Other problems were changes in fill, particularly along the estuarine shoreline and along the interstate and primary roads, the extensive filling of wetlands, and the complete removal of some ice-marginal stratified units (sand and gravel borrow).
The upgraded map, now in digital format with new explanation and correlation diagram, will be available as a 1:24,000 scale, publish-on-demand paper map and the digital coverage, with FGDC metadata, available as downloadable files.

USING GIS TO ANALYZE LOBSTER MIGRATION AND MOVEMENT IN RHODE ISLAND

Mike Bradley1, Kathy Castro2, Alyssa Novak1, and Barbara Somers2
1 Department of Natural Resources Science,
University of Rhode Island, 105 Coastal Institute Kingston, Kingston RI 02881; mike@edc.uri.edu
2 Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science, University of Rhode Island,
East Farm, Kingston RI 02881

Migration and movement of the American Lobster (Homarus americanus) in Rhode Island waters is currently being assessed using tag and release data collected by the University of Rhode Island (URI) Fisheries, Animal, and Veterinary Science (FAV) Department and by the Rhode Island Lobsterman’s Association (RILA). To aid in this assessment, a Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to map capture locations and determine distance and direction of travel. Other data such as date of capture, size, sex, and health were also incorporated into the GIS database. For this study, lobsters were caught throughout Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island Sound, and Block Island Sound, with more lobsters caught southeast of Block Island and in the east passage of Narragansett Bay. The longest distance traveled by a tagged lobster was 309 km and there appears to be a general southerly migration of lobsters out of Narragansett Bay. More rigorous statistical analysis and incorporation of other GIS data layers such as water temperature, bathymetry, or substrate types may reveal complex spatial patterns not discovered by simple database query methods. Potential future GIS analysis could assess lobster stocks, identification of low-impact dredge spoil sites, and assess oil spill damage.

THE CHANGING SPECIES COMPOSITION: CRUSTACEAN INVADERS

J. Stanley Cobb and Niels Hobbs
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; scobb@uri.edu

The northeastern USA has seen a number of crustacean invaders in the marine environment. The most obvious, and the most studied, of these have been the Green Crab, Carcinus maenas and the Asian Shore Crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus. Carcinus arrived in the mid-1800s, colonized the intertidal and shallow subtidal and dispersed slowly northward and southward. Hemigrapsus arrived in New Jersey in the mid 1980s, colonized the intertidal, and its dispersal along the coast has been rapid. We will discuss the arrival, spread, and impact of these two species.

ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS: REINTEGRATING THE STUDY OF HUMANS AND THE REST OF NATURE

Robert Costanza
Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director of the Gund Institute
for Ecological Economics, University of Vermont, Burlington VT 05405;
Robert.Costanza@uvm.edu

This talk will provide an introduction and overview of the transdisciplinary field of Ecological Economics. Ecological economics seeks to reintegrate the study of humans and the rest of nature in order to create a world that is ecologically sustainable, socially fair, and economically efficient. Topics covered include: the emerging vision of a sustainable and desirable human presence in the biosphere, indicators of well-being in ecological and economic systems, the appropriate balance between built, human, natural, and social capital, the dynamics and value of ecosystem services, integrated ecological economic modeling, and creating new social institutions and incentives for positive change.

EXOTIC SPECIES AS CROSS DRESSERS

Barry A. Costa-Pierce
Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program, University of Rhode Island
Narragansett RI 02882; bcp@gso.uri.edu

Established invasive species do not arrive and stay the same. They adapt and evolve—sometimes much more quickly than expected or predicted. Many exotic species are not imported directly as native genetic resources from their natal ecosystems but arrive as transits from third or fourth party sources. Founder populations may be morphologically and meristically distinct in natal ecosystems but reproductively compatible due to their relatively recent divergence. As a result, exotic species can hybridize, introgress, and evolve rapidly. DNA markers in two established invaders (a fish, the tilapia in California; and a mollusk, the zebra mussel in the U.S. Midwest) were compared with natal populations in Africa and Europe by calculating heterozygosities and formulating neighbor-joining dendrograms. Hypotheses were tested that the patterns found arose by chance. Significant differences were found between the established exotic and natal populations. Rapid evolution of established invasive species illustrates the urgent need to prevent re-invasions of natal ecosystems and to incorporate the latest invasion science on re-invasions into new exotic species regulations.

ASSESSING CHANGES IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF SPARTINA CYNOSUROIDES AND PHRAGMITES ALONG THE SEEKONK RIVER

Grace M. Donnelly
BIOSPEC, Inc., #147 Sixth Street, Providence RI 02906; biospec_envirodocs@richmondsq.com

Changes are occurring in the distribution of two similar but unrelated tall reed grasses along the shores of the Seekonk River. We are assessing these changes by measuring the frequency and extent of five types of separate colonies of these grasses. The colonies are characterized as established S. cynosuroides, new S. cynosuroides, mixed S. cynosuroides and Phragmites, established Phragmites, and new Phragmites. The study area is 1.3 miles long. The area contains well-defined reference points on the ground and is keyed to the 1:12,000 scale aerial photos of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. This ongoing study is prompted by our observations that S. cynosuroides, a Rhode Island rare species, is expanding vigorously, even overgrowing and replacing Phragmites populations along the Seekonk River. The current project is designed to create a baseline that will allow us to monitor S. cynosuroides along a part of the Seekonk River and to assess the impact of S. cynosuroides on the Phragmites population in the Seekonk River shoreline ecosystem.

CONSTRUCTING A CLIMATOLOGY OF NARRAGANSETT BAY SURFACE TEMPERATURE WITH SATELLITE THERMAL IMAGERY

Jeremy Fisher and John Mustard
Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence RI 02912; Jeremy_Fisher@brown.edu

High-resolution sea surface climatologies were constructed for southern New England and Narragansett Bay using an extensive series of thermal images from Landsat satellites. Utilizing curve-fitting, seasonal climate patterns were mapped at 60 meter resolution. From the results of this analysis, a pattern emerges of faster and more extreme warming in shallow and isolated bodies, and slower response in deeper, well mixed waters. High amplitude seasonal temperature changes tend to be well correlated with faster response times (earlier maximum and minimum temperatures), except in a few notable circumstances, such as Mount Hope Bay. This bay reaches a maximum temperature at a date coincident with other equivalent systems, but one degree warmer, implying possible anthropogenic forcing. Lakes and shallow estuaries tend to respond in accordance to their depth, while bays and the coastal ocean are differentiated based on circulation patterns. This technique reveals patterns and a surface climatology that is not apparent without a time series, and cannot be seen in in situ records.

ALLINS COVE GEOLOGICAL CHANGE AND HABITAT RESTORATION

Janet Freedman1 and Jon C. Boothroyd2
1Coastal Resources Management Council, Stedman Government Center,
4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield RI 02879; j_freedman@crmc.state.ri.us
2Department of Geosciences and Rhode Island Geological Survey
University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881; jon_boothroyd@uri.edu

Allins Cove, located in Barrington Rhode Island, is a small sub embayment of Narragansett Bay estuary measuring about 8.5 hectares in areal extent. Early vertical aerial photographs of Allins Cove shows an open water embayment with numerous salt marsh islands and fringing salt marsh behind a narrow barrier spit. The barrier spit was anchored to a low glacial headland to the south. A fairly wide inlet, approximately 30 meters at MHW, separated the barrier spit from the low glacial headland to the north in 1938. In 1959, the US Army Corps of Engineers filled 3.2 hectares of salt marsh and intertidal flats in Allins Cove with dredged material from a nearby navigation project. Today, Phragmites marsh and upland habitat cover most of the disposal site. The barrier spit has migrated northward 76 meters and transgressed eastward about one spit width since 1938. The inlet has narrowed and is undercutting the low headland bluff to the north.

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Town of Barrington have embarked on a habitat restoration project for Allins Cove that will restore 1.5 hectares of Spartina marsh and relocate the inlet to its pre-1938 position to inhibit erosion along the northwest shore of the cove.

IMPACT OF THE INVASIVE ALGA GRATELOUPIA TURUTUTU (HALYMENIACEAE, RHODOPHYTA) ON THE NATIVE SPECIES CHONDRUS CRISPUS (GIGARTINACEAE, RHODOPHYTA) IN MOUNT HOPE BAY AND RHODE ISLAND SOUND, RHODE ISLAND, USA: PROPOSED METHOD FOR ASSESSMENT

Michael M. Gaughan1 and Martine Villalard-Bohnsack2
1Roger Williams University, RWU Box 7070, One Old Ferry Road, Bristol RI 02809; mg1969@alpha.rwu.edu
2Department of Biology, Roger Williams University, Bristol RI 02809

Grateloupia turututu, a large red alga, was recorded in Narragansett Bay in 1994. Within eight years, the species spread to most regions of the bay and to the open ocean. However, the consequences for native organisms are unknown. Adaptable introduced species can dominate the local flora and fauna and precipitate a decline in native populations by competing with indigenous species for habitat, sunlight, and food. This study will investigate the effects of G. turututu on the indigenous alga Chondrus crispus. We will examine: 1) whether G. turututu reduces the cover of adjacent C. crispus beds; 2.) whether protected stations exhibit less impact than exposed stations; and 3) whether certain sections of test quadrats are more prone to change. Grateloupia turututu spores will be germinated in the laboratory on sand-covered acrylic discs, which will then be bolted to rocks in established C. crispus zones. The plates will be positioned in 10 quadrats (50 cm2), five quadrats at each of two test stations. Monthly data collection within the quadrats will quantify the hypothesized decrease of C. crispus cover. If G. turututu has the ability to displace native seaweeds, the invasion may have unforeseen and potentially devastating environmental consequences.

CHANGING ENVIRONMENTS AND TRENDS IN THE SPREAD OF VECTOR-BORNE DISEASES

Howard S. Ginsberg
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Coastal Field Station, Woodward-PLS
University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881; howard_s_ginsberg@usgs.gov

Rapid global transportation, habitat fragmentation resulting from suburbanization, and global climate change can foster the introduction and spread of vector-borne diseases in Rhode Island. Increased attention to pathogens carried by ticks and mosquitoes has resulted in the identification of several novel diseases in the northeastern U.S. These might be new emerging diseases, but alternatively, they might have already been present, just previously unrecognized. Nevertheless, the introduction and rapid continental spread of West Nile Virus demonstrates the potential importance of newly introduced pathogens. Changes in habitat patterns, wildlife populations, and distribution of human dwellings figured prominently in the emergence of Lyme disease in the northeastern U.S. Ecological factors also clearly influence current patterns of spread of this disease. Climate affects the prevalence of vector-borne diseases by virtue of its effects on the abundances and phenologies of important reservoir host and vector species, longevity of vectors, reproductive rates of pathogens within vectors, etc. Therefore, climate change can result in increased prevalence of some diseases, and decreased prevalence of others. Knowledge of pathogen and vector ecology, careful planning, disease surveillance, and finely targeted management can minimize human health risk from vector-borne diseases, while simultaneously minimizing negative effects on natural communities

COMPETITION FOR PREFERRED HABITAT AS A MECHANISM FOR THE INVASION SUCCESS OF HEMIGRAPSUS SANGUINEUS

Niels V. S. Hobbs, Larissa Gillon, Jennifer Yordy, and J. Stanley Cobb
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881 USA; crabby@uri.edu

The success of the invasive Asian Shore Crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus, in the northeastern U.S. is likely due to various complementary factors, including the apparent ability to exclude native and resident species from the preferred rocky intertidal habitat. This study sought to test preference and competition for habitat types (cobble vs. bare mud/sand) for H. sanguineus and two competitor species; the resident Green Crab, Carcinus maenas, and the native Rock Crab, Cancer irroratus. We paired heterospecifics and conspecifics from each species. In individual controls, all three species strongly preferred cobble substrate. With paired conspecifics, both H. sanguineus individuals were generally under the cobble, whereas the other two species trials usually resulted in one individual being excluded from the cobble. Similarly, trials done between individual H. sanguineus and individuals from one of the other two species almost always resulted in the latter being excluded from the preferred cobble refuge.

Agonistic interactions between the three species show that H. sanguineus is most aggressive to heterospecifics, often winning bouts, while the other two species show comparable aggression to conspecifics as to the new competitor. As a whole, this study provides a greater understanding of the factors that make H. sanguineus a successful invader.

QUANTIFYING VEGETATION AND NEKTON RESPONSE TO TIDAL RESTORATION OF SACHUEST POINT SALT MARSH, MIDDLETOWN, RI

Mary-Jane James-Pirri1, Charles Roman2, Kenneth Raposa3, Susan Adamowicz1, and John Catena4
1Graduate School of Oceanography, University of RI, Narragansett RI 02882
2National Park Service, Box 8, Graduate School of Oceanography,
University of Rhode Island, Narragansett RI 02882
3Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 55 South Reserve Drive, Prudence Island RI 02872
4NOAA/NMFS Restoration Center, 1 Blackburn Drive, Gloucester MA 01930

We evaluated the response of vegetation and nekton to tidal restoration at Sachuest Point salt marsh, Middletown, RI, by employing a BACI (before, after, control, impact) study design. Before tidal restoration, vegetation of the tide-restricted marsh was dominated by Phragmites australis and was significantly different from the adjacent Spartina-dominated control marsh (ANOSIM, p<0.001). After just one growing season of restored flow, vegetation of the tide-restored marsh differed from its pre-restoration condition (ANOSIM, p<0.004) and remained different 2 and 5 years post-restoration (ANOSIM, p<0.001). With tidal restoration, abundance of Spartina patens, S. alterniflora, and Iva frutescens increased and abundance of Phragmites declined. Height of Phragmites declined 1, 2, and 3 years post-restoration (p<0.05), but began to rebound 4 and 5 years post-restoration. Before restoration, shallow-water habitat of the control marsh supported a greater density of nekton compared to the tide-restricted marsh (ANOVA, p<0.001), but after one season of restored tidal flow, nekton density was equivalent. A similar trend was documented for nekton species richness. Restoring flow to marshes with restricted tidal exchange because of small culverts, dikes, bridges, and/or causeways represents a feasible habitat enhancement technique.

ASSESSING CHANGE IN AN ENDANGERED SPECIES “HOT SPOT”

Peter Keller and Keith Killingbeck
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881; pkel9005@postoffice.uri.edu

The Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge supports at least seven rare non-woody plant species that reside within a small area (2300 m2) encircled by a community dominated by woody shrubs. This endangered species “island,” or “hot spot” harbors species that are acknowledged to be threatened in Rhode Island (Aletris farinosa, Aristida longespica, Platanthera ciliaris, Polygala cruciata, Scleria pauciflora, Scleria triglomerata, Sorghastrum nutans) and in all of New England (P. ciliaris, S. pauciflora, S. triglomerata, S. nutans). Density and abundance of Aletris and Platanthera were measured in 61 0.5 m2quadrats within this “island” in both 1996 and 2002. During this six-year interval, percent cover of woody plants increased from 56% to 79% (P < 0.001), and percent cover of Platanthera decreased from 1.7% to 0.7% (P < 0.05). Population estimates of Platanthera declined from > 24,000 stems in 1996 to < 19,000 stems in 2002, yet high inter-plot variability precluded statistical significance of this reduction. Given the likelihood that disturbance played a role in the development and/or maintenance of this unique plant assemblage, disturbance has been reintroduced as a management tool. Shrubs were cut and removed in 2002, and an experimental prescribed burn is planned for spring 2003.

THE DELICATE OXYGEN BALANCE OF NARRAGANSETT BAY WATERS

Dana R. Kester
Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island,
Narragansett RI 02882; dkester@gso.uri.edu

The oxygen content of seawater is a critical factor in the health of the Narragansett Bay ecosystem. We use automated measurements to document and understand the processes that cause oxygen depletion and algal blooms. Recent results show that phytoplankton blooms and low-oxygen are associated with the phases of the moon. During quarter phases of the moon the tidal range is less than during full or new moons. Smaller tidal ranges cause less mixing of waters and greater vertical stratification with less dense surface waters overlying more dense bottom waters. These conditions favor surface algal blooms and greater bottom oxygen depletion, particularly during summer months, than do the tidal ranges at full or new moons. We can predict more than a year in advance the periods when the Bay is most susceptible to blooms and oxygen depletion. When the tidal range is about 0.9 meters or greater excessive blooms and oxygen depletion are unlikely. When the tidal range is less than about 0.75 meters the upper and middle portions of the Bay are vulnerable to blooms and low oxygen. This sensitivity to small differences in tidal range indicates a delicate balance between the rates of oxygen consumption and replenishment.

THE SMALLMOUTH FLOUNDER, ETROPUS MICROSTOMUS, RANGE EXTENSION INTO RHODE ISLAND NEARSHORE WATERS

Grace Klein-MacPhee1, Aimee Keller1, Dennis Erkan 2, Jenifer Temple2, and Michael Scherer3
1 Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett RI 02882; gracemac@gso.uri.edu
2 Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Fisheries, Coastal Fisheries Laboratory,
3 Fort Wetherill Rd, Jamestown RI 02835
3 Marine Research Inc., 141 Falmouth Heights Road, Falmouth MA 02540

The Smallmouth Flounder is a small flatfish found in near-shore waters and estuaries ranging from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. The center of distribution is the Chesapeake Bight, where they are one of the most numerous flatfish species collected in the ichthyoplankton. The eggs and larvae are common off southern New England and Cape Cod but were have been in Narragansett and Mount Hope Bay. Impingement data from the Brayton Point Power Plant in Mount Hope Bay, Massachusetts shows an increasing upward trend in Smallmouth Flounder numbers since 1985. Previous ichthyoplankton surveys in Narragansett Bay collected few Smallmouth Flounder but a recent survey begun in June 2000 collected large numbers of eggs and larvae. Sampling conducted in 1972-1973 and in 1990 showed no Smallmouth Founder eggs and few larvae. In the 2000 ichthyoplankton collection, the eggs comprise 16.5% of the ichthyoplankton and were ranked second in abundance, and the larvae comprised 11%, also second in abundance over the summer and fall seasons. In 2001 and 2002 the Smallmouth Flounder continued to be a presence, the temporal occurrence was May-October, and it was present at all stations sampled in Narragansett Bay. Juveniles are also increasing in Rhode Island salt ponds.

WIDESPREAD HYPOXIA OBSERVED IN UPPER NARRAGANSETT BAY DURING AUGUST, 2002

Larissa Korhun1, Warren Prell1, David Murray1, Christopher Deacutis2, Dana Kester3
1Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Box 6288, Providence RI 02912;
2Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
RIDEM, 235 Promenade St., Providence RI 02908
3University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, Narragansett RI 02882

A survey of dissolved oxygen (DO) on August 6, 2002 revealed widespread hypoxia throughout upper Narragansett Bay. The survey was conducted on a neap tide during an interval of warm and dry conditions. The DO depth transect from Providence to Popasquash Point exhibited the most widespread and severe hypoxia observed since the DO surveys began in 1999. Hypoxia (< 3mg/L) extended from the base of the pycnocline (3-6 m) to the bottom of the shipping channel (~15-18 m). In addition, oxygen minima at several upper Bay stations reached near-anoxic levels (< 0.2 mg/L), which clearly impact many estuarine species. Time series of DO from Bullocks Reach reveal that the survey occurred near the end of a week-long hypoxic event. Temperature, salinity, and density transects indicate that the bay was thermally stratified and characterized by high salinity and low longitudinal salinity gradients, compared to previous surveys. High temperatures increased respiration demand and the more homogeneous (less stratified) water column allowed mixing of the low DO waters to the base of the shipping channel. We hypothesize that the low longitudinal salinity gradient reflects a reduced estuarine overturning, which normally flushes the shipping channel with cooler, more saline, DO-rich ocean waters. Hence the widespread extent of hypoxia on August 6, 2002 may have resulted from a combination of high DO demand, thermal stratification, and reduced estuarine circulation.ECOLOGICAL

CONSEQUENCES OF REDUCTION IN FRESHWATER FLOWS TO COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS

Virginia Lee, Meg Kerr, and Alan Desbonnet
Rhode Island Sea Grant, Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island,
220 South Ferry Road, Narragansett RI 02882; vlee@gso.uri.edu

Even though New England is a water-rich region, the drought of 2002 sounded the alert that fresh water, an essential resource for human use and habitat preservation, is a limited resource. Rhode Island is looking to other states for water allocation models protecting fresh water for human consumption, minimum stream flows, and coastal estuarine circulation. For us, as for much of the world, “Water management issues continue to be dealt with in a fragmented and rudimentary manner, dominated by sectoral perspectives and neglecting the role of the water cycle as the bloodstream of the biosphere as a whole” (World Water Symposium, Stockholm, Sweden 2001). Not only is water flow important for protection of river plants and animals, it is also important for coastal ecosystems. Assuring freshwater flow to the coast is important for maintaining salinity gradients and nursery habitats for fish and shellfish, importing essential nutrients, and driving estuarine circulation. If we are to sustain important sport and commercial fish and shellfish and an ecologically sound estuarine environment, it will be critical to consider the impact on the coast when allocating water for agriculture, domestic use, commercial use or transfers between watersheds.

ANTHROPOGENIC INFLUENCES ON STREAMS AND THEIR RECEIVING SALT MARSHES

S. M. Lussier1, C. Wigand1, S. daSilva2, M. Charpentier3, S. C. Cormier4, and D. J. Klemm4
1USEPA, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882; lussier.suzanne@epa.gov
2Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881
3 Computer Sciences Corporation, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882
4USEPA, National Exposure Research Laboratory,
26 West Martin Luther King Dr., Cincinnati OH 45268

Land use and anthropogenic activities in watersheds affect biological, chemical, and physical conditions in streams and receiving coastal salt marshes. Our objective is to compare indicators of stream condition and riparian vegetation with analagous indicators of the coastal salt marshes to which they discharge, over a range of anthropogenic impacts. We examined the linkages among stream conditions, riparian zone vegetation, the biotic integrity of coastal salt marshes, and land use at the watershed scale. We used the Rapid Bioassessment Protocol for wadeable streams to collect data for biological, physicochemical, and habitat indicators in six Rhode Island watersheds along a range of residential land use. Field transects were used to measure riparian zonation and vegetation type at each stream site. We compared our indicators from the streams to the corresponding metrics of structure and integrity from salt marshes in the same watersheds. Results showed that increased residential land use in watersheds adversely affected conditions in streams, riparian zones, and salt marshes. By providing information on habitat degradation upstream and associated salt marsh degradation, our results can help us understand the relationships between conditions in watersheds, their streams, and the salt marshes they feed.

HISTORICAL COASTAL WETLANDS OF PRUDENCE ISLAND

Douglas G. McGovern1 and Carol E. Pesch2
1 Computer Sciences Corporation, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882; mcgovern.doug@epa.gov
2 U.S. EPA Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882

Historical maps are useful tools to assess long-term change. The topographic surveys (T-charts) produced by the U.S. Coast and Geodedetic Survey, predecessor of the U. S. Geologic Survey (USGS), provide a rich source of information on historical environmental features dating back to the 1830s. These surveys were produced using state of the art technology and methods for that time. A survey of Prudence Island, RI, was selected to show the techniques needed to work with T-charts and other historical maps. This poster shows a georeferenced historical survey (1866) of Prudence Island as a backdrop, with modern wetlands and coastline from RIGIS eelgrass coverage superimposed on it. The steps used to georeference the historical survey to a modern coordinate system are shown and the technical challenges of working with historical maps are discussed. More uses of historical maps are shown in a companion poster, Using Historical Maps to Assess Change in Wetlands of Narragansett Bay, presented at this RINHS 2003 conference.

UNWELCOME ADDITIONS TO RHODE ISLAND’S NONINDIGENOUS FLORA

Leslie J. Mehrhoff
Invasive Plant Atlas of New England,
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, 06269; vasculum@uconnvm.uconn.edu

The number of vascular plant species occurring in Rhode Island has increased since the arrival of European explorers. Today, almost a quarter of that flora is considered nonindigenous to the state. Many naturalized species are common and accepted as native by most people. Of the almost 400 species naturalized in Rhode Island, a small percentage should be considered invasive or potentially invasive. All invasive species have the ability to seriously impact native terrestrial and fresh water plant communities.

Often, the histories of introductions are obscure, overlooked or forgotten. Some of the invasive plants have been known in Rhode Island for over a hundred years while other have arrived within the last decade. Some impacts are extensive and well documented while others, especially those caused by recent arrivals, are not well known or anticipated. This presentation will illustrate some of the nonindigenous species that have invaded Rhode Island’s native plant communities and explore their history, distribution, and current status. The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England will be introduced as a tool for gathering information on invasive plant distribution and abundance. Potentially invasive plant species not currently known from Rhode Island will be highlighted.

INVENTORY OF MACROLEPIDOPTERA, BUTTERFLIES, TIGER BEETLES AND OTHER INSECTS AT THE NARRAGANSETT BAY NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH PRESERVE AT PRUDENCE ISLAND, PORTSMOUTH, RHODE ISLAND

Mark J. Mello
Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies,
430 Potomska Rd., Dartmouth MA 02748; mothman@attbi.com

An inventory of lepidoptera on Prudence Island, Portsmouth, RI, particularly within the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, was undertaken from May to November 2002 through support of a John Wald Science Grant. Three hundred eighty-eight species of macrolepidoptera, 127 microlepidoptera, 33 butterflies, and five tiger beetles were recorded during the course of this study. Two species, Zanclognatha martha (Noctuidae) and Broad-winged Skipper (Poanes viator; Hesperiidae), which are listed as “Concern” in Rhode Island, were among the 20 species of lepidoptera documented that are either listed as rare or that the author considers uncommon and/or habitat-restricted in the state. Three of the tiger beetles are listed as rare in Rhode Island: Cicindela marginata and C. purpurea (Concern), and C. tranquebarica (State Threatened). Most of the uncommon and listed species are grassland and or barrens’ affiliates. Because these are early successional habitats, maintenance of these habitats long-term will require management such as burning, mowing, and/or clearing of vegetation.

TRACKING LYME DISEASE IN RHODE ISLAND

Adam Memon, Peter Gogel, Erin Rainone, Nathan J. Miller, and Thomas N. Mather
Center for Vector-Borne Disease,
University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881; Adam_Memon@hotmail.com

Tick surveillance studies conducted in Rhode Island over the past decade have demonstrated spatial and temporal relationships between nymphal Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) abundance and human Lyme disease. Increases in tick abundance and therefore, disease risk, may result from increased tick reproduction, enhanced tick survival, or both. Ongoing tick surveillance dating back to 1993 has created an unprecedented tick abundance database, available in a GIS, which greatly facilitates studies to identify factors affecting tick-borne disease risk. Inter-annual changes observed in Rhode Island deer tick distributions strongly suggests that climatological factors such as snow cover, spring precipitation patterns, or soil moisture content influences nymphal Blacklegged Tick survival and abundance. Overall, this tick’s abundance has increased in Rhode Island since 1993, and accordingly, so has the proportion of the state where risk for tick-transmitted disease occurs. During 2002, a particularly large increase was noted in the northwestern portion of the state. Public health officials, medical practitioners, and the general public should be alerted to these changes, and appropriate disease prevention precautions should be implemented in regions with the highest risk.

THE SCIENCE ENVIRONMENT FOR ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE (SEEK): UNDERSTANDING CHANGE THROUGH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

William K. Michener
Long Term Ecological Research Network Office and Department of Biology,
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131; wmichener@LTERnet.edu

Change, the transition from one state or condition to another, is in the eye of the beholder, depending on where and how long we sit, what we are looking for, and how well we are recording our observations. From a scientific viewpoint, our capacity to document, understand, and forecast change is constrained by four associated informatics challenges: (1) the enormous volume and diversity of existing environmental data; (2) inherent difficulties in discovering relevant data; (3) data entropy, the inevitable loss of a database’s information content over time; and (4) semantics, i.e., our ability to appropriately synthesize data based on our understanding of what the data mean. Information technology can enable environmental scientists to overcome these metadata specifications and supporting software, and semantically mediated knowledge environments (e.g., SEEK) portend a revolution in how we perform science. As these information technology advances are incorporated into our science, scientists will be better equipped to record, comprehend, and forecast change. Consequently, future environmental conditions will ultimately depend upon the state of our knowledge base, our imagination in envisioning alternative future states with quantified uncertainties, and the will of the people in effecting changes that lead to desire future states.

HABITAT SELECTION OF RUFFED GROUSE: ARCADIA WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA, RI

Valerie Mitchell1, Erik Endrulat1, Scott McWilliams1, and Brian Tefft2
1 Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; vmit9238@postoffice.uri.edu
2Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Great Swamp Field Headquarters, P.O. Box 218, West Kingston RI 02892

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) populations have been steadily declining in New England and the central and southern Appalachians over the past 50 years. The suspected reason for this decline is the decrease in the amount of early successional habitat associated with maturing forests. This study tested the hypothesis that grouse select for early successional habitats (managed or otherwise) at the scale of the study area and their home range. We collected weekly radio-telemetry readings of grouse in Arcadia Wildlife Management Area during 1999-2002, as part of an ongoing telemetry study. Home ranges of grouse were created using minimum convex polygons. Using compositional analysis, we ranked habitats selected by grouse at the scale of the study area and home range. In the study area, grouse selected mixed forest and early successional habitat over wetland, agricultural, and evergreen habitats. Within their home range, grouse selected mixed forest over early successional habitat. We recommend managing Rhode Island forests to include a diversity of habitats including early successional habitat

POPULATION BIOLOGY OF THE DIAMONDBACK TERRAPIN IN NARRAGANSETT BAY, RHODE ISLAND:
IMPLICATIONS FOR MANAGING A LOCALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES

Matthew G. Mitro
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division,
27 Tarzwell Dr., Narragansett RI 02882; mitro.matt@epa.gov

The Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin, is a long-lived species with special management requirements, but quantitative analyses to support management are lacking. I analyzed mark-recapture data and constructed an age-classified matrix population model to determine the status and viability of the only known diamondback terrapin population in Rhode Island. Female Diamondback Terrapins were captured, marked, and recaptured while nesting during 1990-2001. Population growth rate (l) was 1.034 (95% confidence interval = 1.0121.056). For the past five years, however, abundance was stable at about 188 breeding females. Adult apparent survival was about 0.95 (95% confidence interval = 0.940.97). Recruitment of breeding females decreased during the study period; therefore survival was increasingly a greater component of population growth rate. Both retrospective (mark-recapture) and prospective (matrix population model) analyses showed a greater influence of survival versus reproduction on population growth. Population model projections showed that capping nests to improve reproductive success could increase population growth, but the magnitude of increase was positively related to pre-reproductive survival, therefore negating nest capping as a remedy for declining populations or poor survival. Maintaining a stable or increasing population will require protecting adult terrapins from mortality on roads or by boat propellers.

ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Diane Nacci1, Denise Champline1, Lesley Mills1, Ruth Gutjahr-Gobell1, Jerry Zaroogian1, Bruno Soffientino2, Philip Veillette2, Mary Chandlee2, and Jennifer Specker2
1 US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development,
National Health and Ecological Effects Laboratory,
Atlantic Ecology Division, Narragansett RI 02882; nacci.diane@epa.gov
2 Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett RI 02882

The endocrine system produces hormones, which are powerful natural chemicals that regulate important life processes. Endocrine disruptors are human-made chemicals distributed globally which have the potential to interfere with the endocrine system and produce serious biological effects. Traditionally, the toxic potency of chemicals has been based on tests designed to assess chemical concentrations high enough to kill laboratory species. However, because the actions of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are amplified through the endocrine signaling pathways, their effects may be produced at very low, sublethal concentrations not used in traditional tests. And, like hormones, small changes in concentrations and timing of exposure can affect the nature and severity of EDC effects. Therefore, traditional methods for determining “safe environmental concentrations” are inadequate for EDCs. In this presentation, we will review some recent research using local estuarine fish species, including silverside, cunner, and flounder. These ecologically important species are being used as experimental models to assess the direct effects of EDCs on the sensitive processes of sexual development, metamorphosis, and reproduction. This research will improve our ability to identify previously undiscovered EDCs affecting aquatic life and understand mechanisms by which EDCs produce effects. These findings have important implications for many species, including humans

LANDSCAPE CHANGE IN RHODE ISLAND: ASSESSING DEVELOPMENT PATTERNS, FORMATIVE FACTORS, AND ECOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES

Alyssa Novak
Laboratory for Terrestrial Remote Sensing, Department of Natural Resources Science,
University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881; alyssa_novak@yahoo.com

More attention is being given to urbanization processes because residential and commercial areas are expanding rapidly and growth rates show no sign of slowing. In addition, the incursion of development into terrestrial habitats is resulting in measurable changes to the composition and pattern of habitats and to the fauna and flora associated with them. To better understand landscape change processes, I documented land-use and land-cover changes resulting from urbanization in the State of Rhode Island, identified the socioeconomic factors influencing landscape changes, and determined how the conversion of land affected forests. To accomplish these objectives Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and remote sensing information were used. Analyses indicate land-use and land-cover changes between 1985 and 1999 involved major transitions of land from forest to urban classes. As forested land declined in spatial extent, it also declined in connectivity as the number of forest patches increased in both nonurban and urban areas. Additional analyses of socioeconomic data suggest relationships between the amounts of land converted to urban use and a number of socioeconomic factors, further elucidating their role in landscape change. The results of this study are expected to provide Rhode Island decision makers with the information they need to develop future land-use policies.

THE IMPACT OF HYPOXIA ON THE BEHAVIOR AND MORTALITY OF ASTERIAS FORBESI AND MYTILUS EDULIS AND THEIR PREDATOR-PREY INTERACTIONS

Melissa L. Nystrom
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; mnys6419@postoffice.uri.edu

Periods of low dissolved oxygen, or hypoxia, are a reoccurring problem in parts of the Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island estuarine ecosystem. Dissolved oxygen, an important ecological factor in maintaining and structuring populations, can alter the behavior of benthic communities when it falls below critical levels. The purpose of this study was to gather much needed information on the physical tolerance and behavior of benthic organisms under environmental stress. Using a low dissolved oxygen test system, the hypoxia tolerance of two common epifaunal species was studied under varying oxygen concentrations in laboratory aquaria. By exposing Asterias forbesi and Mytilus edulis to high (7 ml O2/L) and low (2 ml O2/L, 1 ml O2/L, and 0.5 ml O2/L) oxygen concentrations for 96 hours, the individual acute sensitivities and behavioral predator-prey interactions under stress were observed. While no mortality occurred at 2 ml O2/L, both species experienced some mortality after exposure to hypoxic levels of 1 ml O2/L and 0.5 ml O2/L. Predation of Mytilus by Asterias decreased at 2 ml O2/L, and ceased at 1 ml O2/L. Below saturation, distinct behavioral changes were observed for both Asterias and Mytilus.

RESPONSE AND RECOVERY OF A MICROTIDAL WAVE DOMINATED BARRIER TO CLOSELY SPACED EXTRA-TROPICAL CYCLONES

Bryan A. Oakley
Department of Geosciences, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; Rirockhound@hotmail.com

On October 16 2002, the first of three extra-tropical cyclones impacted the micro-tidal, wave-dominated south facing coast of Rhode Island within a three-week time span. Seven beach profiles measured at site CHA-EZ during the three-week time span and five profiles measured during the four weeks of recovery provide a record of short-term changes along the shoreline. CHA-EZ is located on the Charlestown Barrier, Charlestown, RI, and has a weekly profile record dating back to October 1977. These three extra-tropical cyclones (Class 1 and 2 nor’easters in the Dolan and Davis 1991 classification scheme) eroded most of the berm and left an erosional dune scarp along most of the barrier. Profiles taken immediately after storms display a typical post-storm profile with a flat beachface, followed by the later onshore migration and welding of swash bars, and eventually the formation of a narrow berm. This berm continued to widen and mature through the spring-tidal cycle, essentially translating foredune material back to the berm. The quick recovery to the depositional profile is a common aspect of these microtidal beaches. This documentation of short-term cycling on a microtidal shoreline indicates that small, Class 1 and 2 storms can affect beach configuration if they occur over a short time span as first reported by Hayes and Boothroyd (1969) for mesotidal beaches.

THE CHANGING TEMPERATURE AND ECOLOGY OF NARRAGANSETT BAY

Candace Oviatt and Gregory Ellis
Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island,
Narragansett RI 02882; coviatt@gso.uri.edu

Over the past 20 years or so the winter water temperature in Narragansett Bay has increased by over 2 ?C during a positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. The warmer temperatures have stimulated zooplankton grazing rates. This enhanced grazing has caused the winter-spring diatom bloom to decrease in intensity of fail altogether in some years. In recent years, the Oscillation shows evidence of changing to a negative phase, which will bring the bloom back as observed in 1996. The failure of the bloom likely impacts the rest of the food web. We have now demonstrated that reduced biomass of the phytoplankton during the winter-spring bloom, is correlated with reduced abundance of the benthic community. Polychaetes, a favorite prey of demersal fish including Winter Flounder, appear to be the group most adversely affected.

USING HISTORICAL MAPS TO ASSESS CHANGE IN WETLANDS OF NARRAGANSETT BAY

Carol E. Pesch1 and Douglas G. McGovern2
1U. S. EPA Atlantic Ecology Division,
27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, RI 02882; pesch.carol@epa.gov
2CSC, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI 02882

Selected wetland sites around Narragansett Bay are being used in a multi-disciplinary study to develop indicators of “wetland health.” As part of this study, historical maps are being used to delineate historical wetland extent and compare it to present conditions. The topographic surveys (T-charts) produced by the U.S. Coast and Geodedetic Survey, predecessor of the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS), are the earliest historical maps that depict accurate coastlines and include coastal wetlands. These surveys, conducted in the mid-1800s, were drawn with the most accurate survey methods of the time. For selected sites along Narragansett Bay, maps showing both historical and contemporary wetlands were created in a geographic information system (GIS). The T-charts were scanned, georeferenced, and used as a backdrop. Contemporary wetland extent was taken from the RIGIS eelgrass polygon and line coverage (includes all wetlands, 1996). Using a GIS, areas of historical and present-day wetlands can be calculated. Technical details are included in a companion poster, Historical Coastal Wetlands of Prudence Island, presented at this RINHS 2003 conference.

ECOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES OF WETLAND LOSS AND FRAGMENTATION

Linda M. Puth
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University,
Greeley Lab, 370 Prospect St., New Haven CT 06511; linda.puth@yale.edu

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that more than one-third of Rhode Island’s wetlands have been lost to development, an area greater than 40,000 hectares. Such habitat loss results in many negative ecological consequences that stem from the physical loss of habitat for wetland species, the disruption of ecological processes, and the change in density and isolation of wetlands. Examples include local extinctions, changes in nutrient cycling, and the establishment of invasive species. When entire wetlands are lost, not only are resident organisms driven locally extinct or to relocate elsewhere, but the density of wetlands generally decreases while their isolation increases. This spatial rearrangement of wetland mosaics may prevent the effective dispersal of organisms with limited maximum dispersal ranges, such as many amphibians, among wetland habitats. When portions of wetlands are degraded or lost, many species with large ranges go locally extinct, and other species whose populations reach low numbers face increased risk of extinction from stochastic events. Development near wetlands often alters hydrological patterns, altering their suitability for the many species that require particular patterns of wetland filling and drying. These changes are, at best, common, and, at worst, ubiquitous within the wetlands of southern New England. Current policy regarding wetlands could do much more to protect the functioning of wetland systems.

INTERSPECIFIC ASSOCIATION AND POPULATION ANALYSIS OF SALVELINUS FONTINALIS AND OTHER FISH SPECIES IN THE WOOD-PAWCATUCK WATERSHED

S. Saila, D. Burgess, M. Cheeseman, K. Fisher, and B. Clark
Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association
203B Arcadia Road, Hope Valley RI 02832; saul.saila@worldnet.att.net

Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinalis (Mitchill) are native to much of eastern and central North America. Although this species occupies a variety of habitats, the Brook Trout is increasingly restricted to headwater streams in the southern part of its range. Anthropogenic influences in the vicinity of suitable streams as well as the introduction of non-native species are thought to be important factors that currently restrict brook trout to low order streams in this area. Global warming is another factor that may significantly affect the distribution of this species because it is physiologically adapted to relatively cold water.

The first phase of this study has been initiated to better define the habitat requirements and the current distribution of this species in the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed area. This phase involved electrofishing to obtain information on the distribution and habitat preferences of this species in 16 sites. Some indication of the species assemblages associated with Brook Trout is provided. Competition and adverse effects on numerical abundance are suggested from the preliminary results obtained to date. This project is in its initial stages. Further sampling and analysis will be done in order to more effectively define the habitat requirements and other factors that may influence native Brook Trout abundance in the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed.

PREDICTORS OF HYDROPERIOD IN SOUTHERN RHODE ISLAND SEASONAL PONDS: ASSESSING AMPHIBIAN HABITAT SUITABILITY

Dennis E. Skidds and Francis C. Golet
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; dski7545@postoffice.uri.edu

Northeastern seasonal ponds provide breeding habitat for several vulnerable amphibian species. Because each species requires a specific duration of inundation to complete its breeding cycle, one of the most important factors determining habitat suitability is a pond’s hydroperiod. However, accurate historical hydroperiod data are rarely available, and obtaining new data requires extensive hydrologic monitoring. We determined the hydroperiods of 65 seasonal ponds in the Pawcatuck River watershed of southern Rhode Island in 2001 and 2002 and measured a series of site characteristics likely to be related to hydroperiod. A multivariate regression model based on several of these characteristics correctly identified ponds with hydroperiods suitable for breeding wood frogs and spotted salamanders 75–95% of the time. Tree canopy cover, basin depth, and specific conductance were among the most useful predictors, while pH, organic soil thickness, and basal area of surrounding trees had little predictive value. Weighted mean hydroperiod scores and coefficients of variation were computed for 173 plant species encountered during vegetation sampling. Several common species with a narrow hydroperiod range show promise as potential hydroperiod indicators. Ultimately, such hydroperiod predictions could be used to identify specific regions of the landscape that might support amphibian metapopulations on a sustained basis.

SHIFTS IN WILDLIFE SPECIES COMPOSITION AND ABUNDANCE DUE TO HABITAT CHANGES IN RHODE ISLAND

Brian C. Tefft
RIDEM Division of Fish and Wildlife,
Great Swamp Field Headquarters, West Kingston RI 02892; btefft@mindspring.com

The landscape we live on is constantly changing, subject to constant development pressure and a demand for more space as Rhode Islands’ human population grows. Urban and suburban sprawl are now consuming open spaces in Rhode Island at an alarming rate as development and permanent conversion of land resources into residential, commercial, or industrial uses accelerates. The loss of farms combined with the carving up of large tracts of forest for development is often viewed as the most serious influence affecting wildlife. In addition to human induced pressure, natural landscape dynamics are constantly at work changing the size, distribution, and physical characteristics of wildlife habitats. These habitat changes directly influence wildlife abundance and the composition of species that occur. Currently, forest maturation is resulting in declines in species that are dependent on early successional seedling-sapling aged forest stands. Seedling-sapling aged forest declined in Rhode Island from 42% in 1953 to 6% in 1998. The conservation of early successional wildlife and the habitats they depend on is a current conservation concern among many biologists. These changes provide significant challenges for wildlife biologists who strive to maintain biological diversity in species and habitats on the landscape. The wildlife management challenges caused by a changing landscape and shifts in wildlife species composition and abundance will be discussed. Trends for Wild Turkey, American Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, American Kestrel, Northern Bobwhite, Beaver, Fisher, Coyote, and New England Cottontails will be discussed.

RESTORING WATER QUALITY IN GREENWICH BAY

Heidi Travers and Veronica Masson
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management,
235 Promenade Street, Providence RI 02908; htravers@dem.state.ri.us
Greenwich Bay is a major commercial shellfishery and a popular place for recreational shellfishing, fishing, boating, waterfront dining, and swimming. Violations of Rhode Island water quality standards for bacteria and dissolved oxygen prevent the full use and enjoyment of the Bay and its resources. Bacteria levels in Greenwich Bay skyrocketed following a severe storm in 1992, forcing a closure of the shellfish beds. Today shellfish harvesting is permitted during dry weather conditions, however it is prohibited after rainstorms due to high bacteria levels. High levels of nutrients from wastewater and storm water cause nuisance algal growth throughout Greenwich Bay and its coves. The resulting low oxygen levels threaten the survival of fish and shellfish.
DEM is currently preparing water quality restoration plans or Total Maximum Daily Load Plans (TMDL) to address these pollution problems in the Bay. Sampling was completed in 2002. The data collected will be used to set pollution reduction goals and to identify specific implementation measures to restore water quality throughout the watershed. As part of its public outreach, DEM has designed two posters and a brochure that outline the problems facing the Bay and how communities and individuals can help restore the Bay’s water quality.

SEASONAL VARIATION IN PATTERNS OF SALT MARSH USE BY WADING BIRDS IN SOUTHERN RHODE ISLAND

Carol Lynn Trocki and Peter W. C. Paton
Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; carol@uri.edu

Population sizes of wading bird colonies in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island have been monitored since 1975, but little information is available on habitat use. During 2001 and 2002, I surveyed 15 salt marshes in Rhode Island twice per week during breeding (10 May through 11 July) and post-breeding (3 August through 19 September) periods. Ten wading bird species were detected, six of which breed in Narragansett Bay colonies. Wading birds abundance was greater during post-breeding surveys (mean = 128.27 per survey) than breeding surveys (2001 mean = 70.21) in 2001; similar trends occurred in 2002. Although abundance changed between periods, the importance ranking of sites remained similar. Marsh size was the overriding factor accounting for differences in abundance among sites. When all variables were standardized to the size of each site, the effects of other marsh characteristics (open water perimeter, salt marsh area, and open water area) became apparent. The majority of birds observed were actively foraging. Individual species show significant relationships to the habitat characteristics most closely related to their preferred foraging habitat, a trait driven primarily by hydrologic conditions.

USING GIS TO PRIORITIZE PARCELS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF A RARE WILDFLOWER

Matthew A. Vadeboncoeur
Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University,
Providence RI 02912; matthew_vadeboncoeur@brown.edu

Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. novae angliae) is a rare grassland perennial species endemic to New England and New York, which occurs primarily along the New England coast. Twelve of Rhode Island’s 13 element occurrences of Blazing Star are on Block Island. Some of these populations have fewer than 100 individuals, and do not appear to be able to persist indefinitely on their own. If Blazing Star persists as a metapopulation on Block Island, then the conservation of currently vacant habitat patches is important to the long-term persistence of the metapopulation. Using aerial photography as well as existing data on Block Island’s soils and land use, I identified suitable habitat patches for Northern Blazing Star. I then created a model of long distance dispersal using an exponential decay function, and applied this model to the suitable habitat map to create a map of relative colonization probability. Finally, I calculated the mean colonization probability for each parcel. I used this value to prioritize individual parcels for conservation action such as the purchase of easements on unprotected land, and the management of invasive and successional species on protected land.

THE EFFECTS OF HYPOXIA ON THE BEHAVIOR OF EARLY BENTHIC PHASE LOBSTERS, HOMARUS AMERICANUS

Christine Van Orsouw
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island,
Kingston RI 02881; cvan9957@postoffice.uri.edu

Episodes of hypoxia have become a common occurrence throughout many of the world’s estuaries. Narragansett Bay experiences intermittent hypoxia during the summer months, and also supports a large population of the American Lobster, Homarus americanus. Settlement of the American Lobster occurs in the summer months of June and July, and begins the transition to the early benthic phase. The intent of this study was to investigate the effects of hypoxia on the behavior of early benthic phase lobsters. Lobsters were observed for a total of one and a half hours, and the frequency of six behaviors was recorded. I found that as oxygen levels decrease, energetic activities such as walking, swimming, and digging decrease in frequency. Less energetic behaviors, such as sitting inactive on the substrate surface, increased as oxygen levels decreased, except in the lowest oxygen concentration where it was observed that the lobster spent most of its time standing high on its legs, off the substrate. Also in the lowest oxygen level, the lobsters made no attempts to dig in the substrate, the normal behavior for an early benthic phase lobster. A change from the normal behaviors could have detrimental effects on survival for lobsters at this stage.

RANGE EXPANSION OF AN INVASIVE LARGE RED ALGA ALONG THE SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND COAST

Martine Villalard-Bohnsack1, Marcie Marston1, and Marilyn Harlin2
1Department of Biology, Roger Williams University, Bristol RI 02809; mvillbohn@attbi.com
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston RI 02881

In 1994, a large, foliose red alga (Grateloupia turuturu, formerly referred to as Grateloupia doryphora) was found in the rocky intertidal zone at Beavertail State Park, in the southernmost portion of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. This was the first sighting of this species on the northeast coast of North America. Since then, specimens have spread throughout Narragansett and Mount Hope Bays and to the open coast on Rhode Island Sound. In many of these locations, dense beds of Grateloupia, with up to 100% cover, are observed. In addition, specimens have also spread to Block Island and to Montauk Point at the end of Long Island, New York. G. turuturu is thought to have originated from the Pacific Ocean. This species has been repeatedly reported as an invasive on the east coast of the Atlantic Ocean, i.e., along the coasts of England, France, and the Netherlands and in the Mediterranean Sea. The Rhode Island Grateloupia specimens are genetically similar to specimens in all of these recently introduced populations, suggesting that this is a particularly invasive and potentially harmful species of marine algae that is rapidly expanding in range. We are continuing to monitor the movement of this species in Southern New England. In addition, we are beginning to evaluate the impact this species may have on other native algae.

DISPERSAL BIOLOGY AND CONSERVATION GENETICS OF LIATRIS SCARIOSA VAR. NOVAE-ANGLIAE, A RARE NEW ENGLAND PLANT SPECIES
Eric von Wettberg, Kelly Grauver, and Johanna Schmitt
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box G-W, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912; eric_von_Wettberg@Brown.edu

Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa var. novae-angliae) is a rare and declining New England grassland perennial. Seed dispersal and population subdivision are potentially important to conservation strategies. To investigate dispersal, L. scariosa var. novae-angliae seeds were collected from 14 populations (10 seeds from each of 10 maternal plants per population) covering the entire latitudinal range of the species. We developed a regression model using seed measurements to predict drop time in still air and flight distance in a wind tunnel. Using model estimates, dispersal capability differed significantly among populations, but, in contrast to previous studies, differences between island, coastal, and inland regions were not significant. To investigate population subdivision, the seeds were planted in a common garden. Individuals were scored for germination and juvenile traits, and population subdivision (QST) was calculated for both seed and plant traits. FST was obtained using 24 plants per population scored for 19 polymorphic allozyme loci. QST for seed traits fell below FST, while QST for juvenile traits were either equal to or above FST, indicting a potential difference in the type of selection occurring on these trait types.

RELATIONSHIPS OF NITROGEN LOADINGS AND HABITAT PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS WITH PLANT STRUCTURE IN RHODE ISLAND SALT MARSHES

Cathleen Wigand and Rick McKinney
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency,
National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory,
27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett RI O2882; wigand.cathleen@epa.gov

We examined the plant species richness and the extent, density, and height of Spartina in ten Narragansett Bay salt marshes, which had a wide range of nitrogen enrichment. Species richness ranged from 3.8 ± 1.0 to 12.5 ± 1.9. Average Spartina densities were: tall S. alterniflora, 550 ± 89; short S. alterniflora, 1058 ± 247; and S. patens, 4638 ± 1370 shoots m-2. Average shoot heights were: tall S. alterniflora, 107 ± 6.1; short S. alterniflora, 55 ± 3.8; and S. patens, 44 ± 2.8 cm. Marsh elevation and area did not significantly correlate with plant structure. Flood tide height inversely correlated with S. patens plant structure, but did not significantly relate to S. alterniflora or plant species richness. Marsh width positively correlated with plant species richness and S. patens, and inversely correlated with tall S. alterniflora. Significant inverse relationships were observed for N-load and slope with S. patens, short S. alterniflora, and species richness, and significant positive relationships with tall S. alterniflora. The slope was significantly correlated with the N-load, which made it difficult to determine to what extent the N-load was contributing to the variation in the plant structure. It is likely that the varying plant structure is a response to a combination of natural factors and N-loadings.