Monitoring macroalgae populations is an effective means of detecting long term water quality changes in estuarine systems. To investigate the environmental status of New Hampshire’s Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, this study assessed the abundance/distribution of macrophytes, particularly Gracilaria and Ulva species, relative to eutrophication patterns; compared historical (1970s-1990s) and current algal biomass/cover at several sites; and compared Ulva and Gracilaria tissue N/P content to ambient and historical levels. Ulva and Gracilaria biomass/cover have increased significantly at several sites. Cover by Ulva species, at seasonal maxima, was over 90 times the value recorded in the 1970s at Lubberland Creek, and exceeded 50% at all sites in the upper estuary. Gracilaria cover was greater than 25% at Depot Road in the upper estuary, whereas the historical measure was 1%. Sequencing of ITS2, rbcL and CO1 revealed the presence of previously undetected Ulva and Gracilaria species, including Gracilaria vermiculophylla (Ohmi) Papenfuss, an invasive species of Asian origin. Gracilaria vermiculophylla has exceeded G. tikvahiae as the dominant Gracilaria species in Great Bay. Historical voucher specimen screening suggests G. vermiculophylla was introduced as recently as 2003. Nitrogen and phosphorus levels are elevated in the estuary. We should expect continued seasonal nuisance algal blooms.
Nettleton, Jeremy C.; Neefus, Christopher D.; Mathieson, Arthur C.; and Harris, Larry G., "Tracking environmental trends in the Great Bay Estuarine System through comparisons of historical and present-day green and red algal community structure and nutrient content" (2011). PREP Publications. 374.