The Plum Island Ecosystems (PIE) LTER research site consists of a coupled watershed and estuary in northeastern Massachusetts.
The Ipswich River (400km2) and Parker River (200 km2) basins make up the watershed of the estuary. The watersheds lie within the Boston Metropolitan region.
Population density is about 250 people km-2.
The 25 km long (16 miles) macrotidal Plum Island Sound estuary contains salt marsh, dominated by smooth cordgrass (Spartina
alterniflora) and marsh hay (Spartina patens), fresh marsh, dominated by cattail (Typha), intertidal flats and open water tidal creeks and bays. This is the largest
wetland dominated estuary in New England and it supports extremely productive commercial and recreational soft-shell clam and striped bass fisheries.
We have been investigating the ecology of Plum Island Sound estuary since the late 1980s with support primarily from the
National Science Foundation
. (NSF) We were part of NSF Land Margin Ecosystems Research program in the early 90’s.
The site became part of the NSF's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network
in 1998. The Plum Island project is one
of only 4 LTER sites that studies the effects of human activities in watersheds on estuaries. The PIE LTER has developed an extensive database open to the public via the Internet
that includes our results from long-term field observations and experiments in the Ipswich and Parker River watersheds and the Plum Island Sound estuary.