From UNH's 2013-2014 CCOM/JHC Seminar Series: Phil Trowbridge, a Coastal Scientist with the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, presents, "Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership: State of Our Estuaries 2013." This talk was recorded on November 22, 2013 at UNH's Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory.
It is commonly known that NH only has 18 miles of ocean coastline. But did you know that this short coast contains two of the most important estuaries in the United States? The Great Bay Estuary and Hampton-Seabrook Harbor contribute more than 200 additional miles to the briny shoreline and have both been designated as “estuaries of national significance” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Great Bay Estuary also serves as a National Estuarine Research Reserve for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With much of these estuaries located away from highways and roads, they are hidden in plain sight.
As places where rivers flow into the ocean, estuaries are both productive and delicate. They provide food and shelter for a diversity of animals and plants that serve as building blocks for the ocean ecosystem. However, they are also at the receiving end of all the pollution flowing from the land. The Great Bay Estuary is formed by the confluence of seven major rivers that then flow into the ocean. The Hampton-Seabrook Estuary is dominated by the state’s largest salt marsh and clam flats. The watershed that drains to these estuaries covers nearly one quarter of the land in the state and is home to about same percentage of the state’s population.
While these estuaries may be veiled from common view, they are certainly not forgotten. Every three years, the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), in cooperation with DES and UNH, prepares a report on the status and trends of environmental indicators in the estuaries. This year’s report shows that stresses like the amount of impervious surface (parking lots, roadways and roofs) and nutrient pollution are impacting the health of the estuary. Of the 22 key indicators included in the report, 15 were classified as having negative or cautionary conditions or trends. The amount of oysters and eelgrass are in decline and nuisance algae plants are on the rise. These vital signs of the health of our estuaries are showing us that increased efforts to study and restore our estuaries are needed. The full report and guides for citizens and policy makers are available at stateofourestuaries.org.