According to the first-ever ecosystem “report card” for Long Island Sound, released this week, black seabass and summer flounder — fish that prefer warmer water — now populate Long Island Sound more frequently, given the effects of climate change on the Sound’s water temperature.
Meanwhile, old standbys such as winter flounder, Atlantic herring, and shellfish are slowly decreasing because they prefer cooler waters.
The report card is based on data collected by government agencies in Connecticut, New York State, New York City, and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. It covers the entire Long Island watershed– about 1,300 square miles and almost 1 million acres of open and coastal waters.
Beach closures in the summer because of high bacterial levels and shellfish beds that must be monitored for contamination are among the more visible effects of pollution on the more than 9 million residents living by the Sound, the report notes.
Fisheries such as oysters, scallops, and lobsters, as well as salt marshes and sea grasses that once were widespread also have been reduced as a result of over-development, over-fishing, and climate change.
The Eastern Long Island Sound, near the Connecticut and Rhode Island border, earned grades of very good for water quality (an “A”), while the Western Narrows near New York City earned a very poor grade for water quality (an “F”). In the eastern Sound, the pollution is diluted by exchange with the Atlantic Ocean, while the western Sound water quality was judged unhealthy because of pollution from population pressures and climate change.
Overall, five key water quality indicators in the Sound (dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorophyll a, and water clarity) had good or very good grades except phosphorus, which had a poor grade in the report.
“It will be challenging to protect and restore Long Island Sound in the face of population pressure and climate change,” said project leader Professor William Dennison. “But it is heartening that there are still regions in the Sound with good water quality, thriving eel grass meadows and abundant fish and shellfish,” he said. “It is also a testament to the strong partnerships and robust monitoring programs that we could produce these Sound wide and report cards.”
For more information about the Long Island Sound Health Report Card including region-specific data and downloadable graphics, visit longislandsound.ecoreportcard.org.
Images courtesy University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.