Assessing recent trends in nutrient inputs to estuarine waters and their ecological effect

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Resource or Project Abstract

The main objective of this project was to trace the historic Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) flows from the source to the coastal zone to enable a determination of not only the effectiveness of recent mitigation measures but enhance current understanding of response trajectories. The results will assist in the future targeting of actions to be applied specifically in light of current and future programmes of measures in the context of European Directives and regulations. Load Apportionment Modelling indicated that in most systems the greatest overall contributor to N and P loads is diffuse sources. However, reduction in both diffuse and point sources have resulted in considerable reductions in P, highlighting the effectiveness of measures which have been applied. Reductions in N loads have been more modest and are largely related to agricultural improvements. The more widespread reduction in Riverine P inputs and the concurrent high and increasing N:P ratios in both Riverine inputs and estuarine concentrations is an indication of the imbalance in nutrient reduction which while improving estuarine ecosystem health, may have deleterious impacts for the transport of nutrients to the outer coastal zone. The application of the Dynamic Combined Phytoplankton and Macroalgal (DCPM) box model to two Irish estuaries elucidated the importance of hydrological regime in determining the growth of opportunistic green macroalgae in marine dominated systems. Seasonal oscillations in monitored river flow rates can alter nutrient transfer from the catchment to the estuary thus increasing the relative contribution of phosphorus (P) from adjacent marine waters to estuarine concentrations. Load reduction scenarios indicated that in such systems P load reduction will result on minimal impact on the biomass of macroalgae in the system while large N removal would be required before a biological response is attained. The hydrological complexity of estuarine systems demonstrated dictates that a portfolio of separate, but complimentary, management approaches may be required to address eutrophication in these estuaries.This study has shown that in the Irish context the impact of measures to reduce nutrient loadings is largely dependent on not only load source and input magnitude but nutrient cycling processes and modulating factors such as light and residence time. The influence of measures, cycling and physical controls will evolve through the estuarine continuum from fresh to marine water, highlighting the need to consider the impact of measures on each river-estuarine system in the context of these control shifts.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Sorcha Ni Longphuirt
Environmental Protection Agency

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    EPARR_184_NiLongphuirt_estuarine_web.pdf   (3.03 Mb)
Att 2    EPARR_184_NiLongphuirt_infographic_research.pdf   (3.26 Mb)

Suggested Citation Information

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Author(s)Longphuirt, N.S.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationAssessing recent trends in nutrient inputs to estuarine waters and their ecological effect
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifierd75919f1-321e-11e6-ab63-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-21

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Longphuirt, N.S.   "Assessing recent trends in nutrient inputs to estuarine waters and their ecological effect". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-06-21)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsNitrogen, phosphorus, load apportionment, trend analysis, estuary, riverine inputs, ecological modelling, phytoplankton, opportunistic macroalgae, Water Framework Directive
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2012-W-FS-9
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceAny attached datasets, data files, or information objects can be downloaded for further use in scientific applications under the condition that the source is properly quoted and cited in published papers, journals, websites, presentations, books, etc. Before downloading, users must agree to the "Conditions of Download and Access" from SAFER-Data. These appear before download. Users of the data should also communicate with the original authors/owners of this resource if they are uncertain about any aspect of the data or information provided before further usage.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Thursday 1st March 2012 (01-03-2012)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Thursday 1st March 2012 (01-03-2012)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 1st March 2016 (01-03-2016)
Published on SAFERTuesday 14th June 2016 (14-06-2016)
Date of Last EditThursday 20th July 2017 at 12:29:40 (20-07-2017)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 20th July 2017 at 12:29:40 (20-07-2017)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Riverine Discharges to 17 National Estuaries in Ireland: Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, TN:TP (Molar ratio), Total Oxidised Nitrogen, Molybdate Reactive Nitrogen TON:MRP (Molar ratios), and Ammonia. Data is calculated from monitored concentrations collected by the EPA and river flow data (EPA's HYDRONET and OPW). This data is reported to OSPAR annually.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The need for this project: The EPA has a central role in assessing the environmental quality of estuarine and nearshore coastal waters. Data on a range of parameters including dissolved oxygen, inorganic nutrients and chlorophyll are collected on an annual basis to allow the assessment of the trophic status of these waters. This programme has been in operation since the mid-1990s and the information obtained has contributed to the implementation of both the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and Nitrates Directive and more recently the Water Framework Directive. While the information collected by this programme has provided an excellent basis for ?status assessment?, relatively little work has been done on assessing trends (both positive and negative) that are inherent in the data. A detailed assessment of these trends and their causes (e.g. improved waste water treatment works) would prove useful in the context of the Water Framework Directive and the future role-out of programmes of measures. More specifically, the output from this work will also aid the Agency in its new role of licensing discharges as required by the Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations SI No. 684 of 2007. This project does not follow on from a pre-exisiting project
Supplementary Information
Dynamic Combined Phytoplankton and Macroalgal model

Special thanks to Dr. Eva Mockler for the load apportionment modelling output contained in the national study

2 publications : Ní Longphuirt, S., O?Boyle, S. Wilkes, R., Dabrowski, T., Stengel, D.B., 2015. Influence of hydrological regime in determining the response of macroalgal blooms to nutrient loading in two Irish estuaries. Est Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-015-0009-5; Ní Longphuirt, S., O'Boyle, S., Stengel, D.B., 2015. Environmental response of an Irish estuary to changing land management practices. Sci Tot Environ 521-522:388-399.

1 publication submitted: Ní Longphuirt, S., Mockler, E.,O?Boyle, S., Wynne, C., Stengel, D.B. Linking changes in nutrient source load apportionment to estuarine responses: An Irish perspective.Biology and Environment Special Issue.

Load apportionment model (GIS) outputs (catchment scale datasets relating to Nitrogen and Phorphorus modelled loads) for 17 Irish catchments: point and diffuse outputs upstream and downstream of OSPAR sampling sites. Two datasets were produced relating to 2000 and 2010-2013. The data entered into the model to produce the outputs was taken from CSO datasets, AER returns for direct discharges (IPCC licenced facilities)
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