Real-Time Water Quality Monitoring Shows Diurnal Variation of Dissolved Oxygen That Contributes to Unsolved Fish Kills

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Algal blooms, low dissolved oxygen, and localized fish kills degrade estuaries along New Jersey's urbanized coastline. Fish kills, primarily involving Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), have occurred in Monmouth County estuaries periodically throughout the past several decades. Typically, environmental agencies respond to reports of such events with intensive, after the fact, sampling efforts. In contrast, the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) provides accurate and comprehensive scientific information on coastal water quality using a network of long-term, near real-time monitoring stations in the northern estuaries of New Jersey (Urban Coast Institute 2009).

After investigation of recent menhaden kills in Branchport Creek, a tributary of the Shrewsbury River in late July and early August 2008, State and County environmental officials indicated that they found nothing out of the ordinary with the water quality in the vicinity of the fish kills and stated that they were likely the result of natural conditions. However, data from the UCI's monitoring network has shown unexpected features of these fish kills and greatly increased our understanding of them. Upon reviewing dissolved oxygen data from our Branchport Creek monitoring station, we observed dissolved oxygen levels approaching hypoxic conditions at night, a trend that may not be detected from day time grab samples. This finding likely accounts for the fact that these fish kills were, in fact, caused by oxygen depletion.

Keywords: Atlantic Menhaden; Dissolved Oxygen; Fish Kills; Sensors; Water Quality Monitoring

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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