POPULATION DYNAMICS, HEAVY METAL LEVELS, AND FOOD CHAIN BIOACCUMULATION IN COLONIAL WATERBIRDS IN NEW JERSEY

Project Details

Description

New Jersey and all coastal states face increased population concentration along coasts, increased development, and shrinking natural environments, along with global change, temperature increases, and sea level rise. These changes have resulted in decreasing availability and suitability of habitats for a range of estuarine and coastal species. It is essential to track changes in biological communities to determine potential long-range effects, to assess the health and well-being of important ecosystem components, to assess food chain differences that have implications for several different trophic levels (including people), and to determine the relative role and importance of salt marsh ecosystems in preserving coastal ecosystem and providing resiliency to coastal human communities.This research will use colonial nesting birds as bioindicators of coastal and bay ecosystem health, as indicators of the effects of severe storms and tidal floods/surges, and of sea level rise. Birds are excellent bioindicators because they represent different nodes on the food chain, are easy to see and census, represent different habitat uses and niches, and are of interest to the public. Further, we have 37 years of data on colony numbers, and contaminant data since 1970. These represent one of the longest running data sets in the country (the only other one is for the Great Lakes). This data, especially when correlated with NJ weather/climate data, can be used to examine climate change and sea level rise. Innearly 40 years, several salt marsh islands have completely disappeared, others have undergone succession to unusable islands, and others remain usable. Only a long-term data set can be used to examine global changes (a major mission) and sea level rise, as well as assess the potential for salt marshes and other habitats to provide resiliency to human communities.To understand the potential risk to consumers of possibly contaminated fish and shellfish, it is essential to understand fishing rates, consumption rates, the reasons why people fish, and contaminant levels in those fish or other resources. Few scientists examine the whole process from how and why people fish, through understanding of the marine ecosystem, to contaminants in fish and other marine resources (e.g. shellfish, birds), to risk assessment and risk management. These issues relate directly to commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and food safety.Our prior work here hasincluded collaborations with the public, with the Jersey Coast Angler's Association, with the Jersey Shore Shark Association, and with NJ Department of Environmental Protection (through fish collections on their trawls). Only with the collaboration among these people can we conduct research that is both scientifically sound and directly responsive to the needs of the public to understand the risks from fish consumption.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date11/19/149/30/19

Funding

  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))

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