Vasslides James

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  • Article
    Simulated estuary-wide response of seagrass (Zostera marina) to future scenarios of temperature and sea level
    (Frontiers Media, 2020-10-21) Scalpone, Cara R. ; Jarvis, Jessie C. ; Vasslides, James ; Testa, Jeremy M. ; Ganju, Neil K.
    Seagrass communities are a vital component of estuarine ecosystems, but are threatened by projected sea level rise (SLR) and temperature increases with climate change. To understand these potential effects, we developed a spatially explicit model that represents seagrass (Zostera marina) habitat and estuary-wide productivity for Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor (BB-LEH) in New Jersey, United States. Our modeling approach included an offline coupling of a numerical seagrass biomass model with the spatially variable environmental conditions from a hydrodynamic model to calculate above and belowground biomass at each grid cell of the hydrodynamic model domain. Once calibrated to represent present day seagrass habitat and estuary-wide annual productivity, we applied combinations of increasing air temperature and sea level following regionally specific climate change projections, enabling analysis of the individual and combined impacts of these variables on seagrass biomass and spatial coverage. Under the SLR scenarios, the current model domain boundaries were maintained, as the land surrounding BB-LEH is unlikely to shift significantly in the future. SLR caused habitat extent to decrease dramatically, pushing seagrass beds toward the coastline with increasing depth, with a 100% loss of habitat by the maximum SLR scenario. The dramatic loss of seagrass habitat under SLR was in part due to the assumption that surrounding land would not be inundated, as the model did not allow for habitat expansion outside the current boundaries of the bay. Temperature increases slightly elevated the rate of summer die-off and decreased habitat area only under the highest temperature increase scenarios. In combined scenarios, the effects of SLR far outweighed the effects of temperature increase. Sensitivity analysis of the model revealed the greatest sensitivity to changes in parameters affecting light limitation and seagrass mortality, but no sensitivity to changes in nutrient limitation constants. The high vulnerability of seagrass in the bay to SLR exceeded that demonstrated for other systems, highlighting the importance of site- and region-specific assessments of estuaries under climate change.
  • Article
    Estimating connectivity of hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) and eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) larvae in Barnegat Bay
    (MDPI, 2019-06-01) Goodwin, Jacob D. ; Munroe, Daphne M. ; Defne, Zafer ; Ganju, Neil K. ; Vasslides, James
    Many marine organisms have a well-known adult sessile stage. Unfortunately, our lack of knowledge regarding their larval transient stage hinders our understanding of their basic ecology and connectivity. Larvae can have swimming behavior that influences their transport within the marine environment. Understanding the larval stage provides insight into population connectivity that can help strategically identify areas for restoration. Current techniques for understanding the larval stage include modeling that combines particle attributes (e.g., larval behavior) with physical processes of water movement to contribute to our understanding of connectivity trends. This study builds on those methods by using a previously developed retention clock matrix (RCM) to illustrate time dependent connectivity of two species of shellfish between areas and over a range of larval durations. The RCM was previously used on physical parameters but we expand the concept by applying it to biology. A new metric, difference RCM (DRCM), is introduced to quantify changes in connectivity under different scenarios. Broad spatial trends were similar for all behavior types with a general south to north progression of particles. The DRCMs illustrate differences between neutral particles and those with behavior in northern regions where stratification was higher, indicating that larval behavior influenced transport. Based on these findings, particle behavior led to small differences (north to south movement) in transport patterns in areas with higher salinity gradients (the northern part of the system) compared to neutral particles. Overall, the dominant direction for particle movement was from south to north, which at times was enhanced by winds from the south. Clam and oyster restoration in the southern portion of Barnegat Bay could serve as a larval supply for populations in the north. These model results show that coupled hydrodynamic and particle tracking models have implications for fisheries management and restoration activities.