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Tracking Short-Term Variability and Long-Term Changes in Estuarine Systems: The National Estuarine Research Reserve System-Wide Monitoring Program

Maurice Crawford 1

1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOS, Silver Spring, MD

A key to conserving estuarine habitats is information on how human activities and natural events can change ecosystems. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System has begun a large-scale monitoring effort for the purposes of contributing to effective coastal zone management. The System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) tracks short-term variability and long-term changes in coastal ecosystems represented in the reserve system. The initial phase of the reserve's System-wide Monitoring Program, known by its acronym SWMP (pronounced swamp), began in 1996. This phase focuses on monitoring a suite of water quality and atmospheric information. Water quality data are collected every 30 minutes on pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, water levels, nutrients and chlorophyll a. In addition, weather data are collected (i.e., temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity, barometric pressure, rainfall and Photosynthetically Active Radiation). A Centralized Data Management Office located at the Belle Baruch Lab, SC, manages data collected. This office also provides training for reserve staff on the instruments used by the program, QA/QC, and posts these data to the Web (http://cdmo.baruch.sc.edu/).

The program provides valuable short- and long-term data to researchers and coastal managers. The information collected by this program has been used to measure the impacts of restoration projects, to examine the duration of hypoxic events and to develop predictive models on flooding. The monitoring program increases our understanding of how estuaries function and change naturally over time; as funds become available the reserve system plans to expand SWMP to monitor organisms and changes in land use/habitats.

Keywords: water quality, monitoring, hypoxia, estuaries, QA/QC and NERRS

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