Buchanan, G.A.; Belton, T.J., and Paudel, B., 2017. The Comprehensive Barnegat Bay Research Program. In: Buchanan, G.A.; Belton, T.J., and Paudel, B. (eds.), A Comprehensive Assessment of Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
A comprehensive ecosystem research strategy was developed and initiated for the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor (BB-LEH) estuary in New Jersey, United States. This multiyear program (2011–15) examined several environmental management issues and questions involving concerns with water quality (e.g., nutrients) and the health of this ecosystem (e.g., eutrophication). Multiple projects ranging from the assessment of phytoplankton to fish to wetlands, as well as hydrodynamic/water quality and ecosystem modeling, were conducted each year to fill in critical data gaps and to define the bay's baseline condition for future comparisons (e.g., a nuclear generating station on the bay with a once-through cooling system will close in 2019). Issues of concern for environmental agencies and the public include nuisance jellyfish; excess nutrients; benefits of conservation zones; and the status of fish, crab, and shellfish populations. Three projects examined the potential for developing biological indicators of nutrient (i.e. nitrogen and phosphorus) effects. Three other projects studied the unique habitat features (i.e. salt marshes, sedge islands, submerged aquatic vegetation beds) in BB-LEH that may need protection and/or restoration. Ecosystem baseline conditions were examined by six projects, and data were used in the Ecopath-Ecosim model to predict potential future changes in the biomass of major biological groups and species using specific scenarios (i.e. closure of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, reducing nutrient inputs and fishery management plans). Noteworthy is the collection of these data pre- and post-Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall a few kilometers south of the estuary in 2012. The subsequent 19 papers in this special issue provide an in-depth examination of these areas of concern, the results of which are exceedingly relevant to the management of this and other estuarine systems.