DV-14-14 Maine Coastal Observing Alliance regional monitoring pilot project

Sarah Gladu
Damariscotta River Association
110 Belvedere Road
Damariscotta, ME 04543

Ocean acidification, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, has been observed worldwide. The trend can be enhanced in coastal waters where nutrient runoff causes overproduction of organic matter, which then decomposes, consuming dissolved oxygen and producing carbon dioxide. Impacted coastal locations may show decreasing pH and dissolved oxygen with depth; there is reason to be concerned that Maine’s many embayments and estuaries are vulnerable to this trend. Maine’s citizen-monitors are concerned that these trends pose a threat to the state’s coastal habitat and valuable shellfish resources. 

In 2014, volunteer-supported organizations and researchers along the coast of Maine formed the Maine Coastal Observing Alliance, in recognition of their common interests in understanding and promoting the ecological health of Maine's estuaries. They began a project to gather and analyze pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, salinity, and turbidity in seven coastal estuaries and embayments between Casco Bay and Penobscot Bay, the first coastwide survey of Maine’s coastal water quality since a 1996 Department of Environmental Protection study. The initial pilot phase focused on developing a track record of using identical and intercalibrated equipment, methods and operators.

The summary report from the first year's monitoring found that the estuaries were generally in a healthy state, in terms of nutrients and oxygen, but that low pH levels are a concern.

Sea Grant funds: $5,084