PIE LTER Key Findings
SCALE MATTERS - By conducting large scale, long-term studies of entire river-estuary networks, PIE scientists revealed ways that human activities and natural processes interact to control the flow of water and nutrients from the land to the ocean. This science helps to guide the reduction of harmful nitrogen pollution in coastal waters.
TIPPING POINTS - PIE scientists have discovered marshes have "tipping points" beyond which sediment accumulation fails to keep up with rising sea level and the marshes drown. These tipping points vary regionally and are influenced by human activities such as dam building and land clearing that affect sediment transport from the watershed.
SALINITY & NITROGEN - Estuaries intercept nitrogen as it travels from watersheds to coastal waters, but the effectiveness of this ecosystem service varies widely. PIE scientists discovered that the magnitude and timing of salinity changes in tidal waters may control the processing of the nitrogen, which may impact the frequency and severity of algal blooms along the coast.
MODELLING MICROBIAL CHEMISTRY - PIE scientists developed a novel approach to model how bacteria and other microscopic organisms transform organic compounds and nutrients in estuarine and other aquatic environments based on ideas from thermodynamics. The new approach will allow scientists to more accurately predict how estuaries and other ecosystems will respond to global change.
SPATIALLY-EXPLICIT FISH MOVEMENTS - PIE scientists have been leaders in using anadromous fish movements to inform watershed restoration efforts. Our research on river herring, a declining fish in Massachusetts, is providing new insights into fish ecology as indicators of watershed status, in linking freshwater dynamics to estuarine ecosystem function, and informing watershed restoration.