News : Great Bay Stewards Hones Efforts to Reverse Estuary’s Decline

Mar 26, 2014

Published in Seacoast Online and the Portsmouth, Exeter, and Hampton-No. Hampton Patch sites

BY BILL BURTIS

GREAT BAY ESTUARY — How do you know Great Bay? Perhaps you’ve been in it in a swimsuit or a wet suit, a kayak or a boat. Maybe you’ve hiked its shoreline, fished it from a bridge or rocky outcrop. Or you’ve just enjoyed its sunlit glimmer or sea smoke, catching site of an eagle enjoying lunch on an ice floe.

Whatever your connection, you know that the Bay and its collection of seven rivers shape the topography and the culture, whether human or natural, of this beautiful place, and are a key part of what makes living on “the Seacoast” unique.

Sadly, the Great Bay Estuary, as an ecosystem, has been in steady decline for decades because of increasing pollution from development in the towns in its watershed. The biggest single current threat to the health of the Bay is nitrogen, which promotes algal growth; algae, in turn, threaten one species vital to the overall health of the Bay — eelgrass.

“The eelgrass is our canary in the coal mine. Algae are winning the war right now due to the excess of nitrogen in the estuary,” says Peter Wellenberger, executive director of the Great Bay Stewards, a volunteer-based organization working to prevent shoreline erosion, invasive plant growth, or increased nitrogen levels from human-caused water runoff, and is committed to protecting Great Bay for plants, animals, and people alike. “We are continuing to see a decline in both eelgrass cover and especially in the density of the beds,” Wellenberger says.

Read the full story in Seacoast Online.