MBL Team to Assess Reducing Nitrogen Load to Local Waters by Managing Forests

MBL Team to Assess Reducing Nitrogen Load to Local Waters by Managing Forests

MBL Ecosystems Center scientists Ivan Valiela and Javier Lloret have received a grant to quantify the potential of forested land cover management to reduce nitrogen loads in several Cape Cod watersheds. This subaward is from the U.S. Geological Survey via the University of Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center.

To protect the quality of fresh and estuarine waters, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has issued regulations requiring reductions of nitrogen loads in every coastal municipality. The cost of updating conventional sewage treatment plants is currently prohibitive, so there is growing interest in assessing alternative options for controlling nitrogen loads. The Cape Cod Commission has assumed a leading role in compiling information on alternative options, and in transferring that information to a variety of stakeholders by creating a Technologies Matrix database.

With this award, Valiela and Lloret will develop a section of the Cape Cod Commission Technologies Matrix on land cover management as an option for controlling nitrogen loads. To carry this out, they will model nitrogen inputs to several Cape Cod watersheds with different degrees of forest cover. They will quantify decadal trajectories of forest cover and associated nitrogen retention; partition retention of nitrogen in forests and other land covers; and test whether degree of urban development, decreases in atmospheric nitrogen deposition, lag effects during transit through the watersheds, and land cover configuration alter nitrogen retention within forests.

This grant is a collaboration with Heather McElroy and Anne Reynolds of the Cape Cod Commission.

Photo: Waquoit Bay, Falmouth, Mass., one of the Cape Cod watersheds under study. Credit: Javier Lloret