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“Water We Going To Do?” Conference Keynote Speaker: Christopher J. Patrick, Ph.D.

Can an ecosystem recover from nitrogen pollution?

Members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership are busy preparing for the 7th annual “Water We Going To Do?” Conference taking place on Wednesday, October 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. While news of Long Island’s waters and communities are still suffering from the impacts of pollution continues to emerge, we ask ourselves, can we bring our ecosystems back from pollution? This year’s keynote speaker, an assistant professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Texas AM University, Christopher J. Patrick, Ph.D., asked the same question during a study of Chesapeake Bay. The answer gives us hope.

One of the largest estuaries in the world, Chesapeake Bay has fallen victim to anthropogenic (human) impacts that have led to a damaged ecosystem. Humans have long had this effect on the health of the environment, including coastal waterbodies that so often make the news today. Nutrient pollution has caused widespread degradation of coastal habitats and many efforts to reverse the damage have been largely unsuccessful. There is hope, however, as the study conducted by Dr. Patrick and his fellow scientists observed watershed modeling, biogeochemical data, and comprehensive aerial surveys of Chesapeake Bay over the course of 30 consecutive years. The study aimed to quantify the effects of human impacts on submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) – ecologically and economically valuable habitats. 

By employing structural equation models to link land use change to higher nutrient loads, SAV cover is reduced through multiple, independent pathways. Through these efforts and sustained management actions, nitrogen concentrations have been reduced in Chesapeake Bay by 23% since 1984. Nutrient reductions and biodiversity conservation have proven to be effective strategies to recover degraded coastal systems such as this. Read more on the study here

Long Island’s water is essential to our every way of life from shellfish industries to tourism. Though we have a long way to go, we know there are actions that can be taken to help mitigate the concerns of worsening water quality. Join us at the “Water We Going To Do?” Conference this month and hear more from Dr. Patrick and several other great presenters on what’s next in the fight to save Long Island water.