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Pakim's Pond, one of many test locations. Credit: Thomas Belton, research associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
A new way of measuring the relative habitability of freshwater environments for fish and aquatic insects suggests that New Jersey's water monitoring and treatment standards could use a boost.
Standard - Nutrient - Levels - Freshwater - Streams
Using a standard they created for measuring potentially damaging nutrient levels in freshwater streams by measuring the prevalence of single-celled algae, called diatoms, researchers from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University analyzed environmental data from 95 river and stream sites in six ecological regions of New Jersey.
The team's findings revealed that New Jersey's current allowable threshold for dissolved nutrients in its streams is likely too high.
Nutrients - Phosphorus - Nitrogen - Way - Bodies
These nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, frequently find their way into bodies of water from surface runoff from agricultural areas and direct discharges from municipal sewage treatment plants.
In aquatic environments, high nutrient levels can have harmful effects, including algal mat growth and low dissolved oxygen levels—which make the environment uninhabitable for fish and macroinvertebrates, like freshwater clams and aquatic insects.
Diatoms - Water - Quality - Part - Biological
Based on their newly developed approach—using diatoms as a water quality indicator—as part of the standard Biological Condition Gradient system, the researchers found New Jersey's total phosphorus parameter of 100 micrograms per liter will not protect sites from becoming ecologically impaired. Their research suggests that the threshold for a healthy body of freshwater in New Jersey should be no higher than 50 micrograms per liter, in order to maintain, or restore, most sites to an unimpaired condition.
The research, which used the diatom Biological Condition Gradient the team developed just over two years ago, was published in Ecological Indicators. Coauthors Donald Charles, Andrew P. Tuccillo, a former researcher at the Academy, and Thomas Belton, a research associate at the Academy but who formerly worked at the...
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