The Great Bay Estuary

By Kara Bossi and Kate Bermingham

What is a Harmful Algal Bloom?

Harmful Algal Blooms occur in all 50 states around the United States of America. Examples of some Harmful Algal Blooms include: red tides, blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria. Harmful Algal Blooms are made from sunlight, slow moving water, nutrients (nitrogen/phosphorus), and nutrient pollution from human activity (EPA). Harmful Algal Blooms occur when algae grows out of control, creating toxic and harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. Many believe Harmful Algal Blooms may be related to the idea of over feeding (NOAA). These Harmful Algal Blooms get their power from run off from lawns and the fertilizer that seeps into these waters, creating these harmful effects on our animals, and our food (GLEON).

Animals Affected by Harmful Algal Blooms

What types of organisms are involved?

Many organisms are involved in the creation of Harmful Algal Blooms. Some of these organisms include, green algae, dinoflagellates, haptophytes, raphidophytes, diatoms, euglenophytes and cryptophytes. Cyanobacteria also plays a large role in the creation of these HABS. Cyanobacteria are prokaryotes who are typically as big as Eukaryote algae, and can either be filamentous or non filamentous. Organiams such as planktolyngbya, Aphanizomenon, and Anabaena are common participants to the making of phosphorus in lakes, creating these Harmful Algal Blooms. Another organism associated with Harmful Algal Blooms includes the Cylindrospermopsis raciborski, which is also under the category of being a Cyanobacteria, which is known to create many toxins (GLEON).

What are the ecological impacts, which species are affected and how is the environment affected?

Some of these Harmful Algal Blooms create very dangerous toxins, killing fish, mammals, birds and can even cause human illnesses and sometimes even death. Other types of algae, which can be non toxic, but consume all of the oxygen in the water as they deteriorate, which can cause blocking/clogging the gills of fish and other marine animals. Harmful Algal Blooms are also affected by climate change and the increase of nutrient pollution, which leads to the formation of Harmful Algal Blooms to become more common (NOAA). Phosphorus, hydrocarbons, chlorophyll, and sediments gather over time, and if not treated, can kill many organisms (UNH). Not to mention, many people have gotten sick because of the toxins that shellfish contain being released from the Harmful Algal Blooms (NOAA).
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Eutrophication Nutrient Diagram (Ohio Wesleyryan University)
The Great Bay Estuary is an example of Eutrophication. For example, when the Great Bay (Estuary) contains too many Nitrogen and Phosphorus from runoff land, many species of algae, microorganisms and plankton consume this runoff and take over the waters. Once these Harmful Algal Blooms take over, they leave negative effects on organisms, birds and even US humans (NOAA).

What are the economic impacts?

Harmful HABs have caused many negative impacts to the economy. One of these impacts is on commercial fisheries. When algal blooms increase in a given area, many organisms die off due to the excess amount of Nitrogen. When there is a sudden expansion in the amount of organisms (especially fish) dying, then fishing has to be either reduced or stopped all together in order to protect the environment ( Estimated Annual Economic Impacts...). Another economic impact deals with scared consumers. Once buyers hear about a harmful algal bloom in their community, it causes these individuals to be more aware and concerned on where their dinner is coming from. It then could take an extended period of time after the HAB for buyers to trust the body of water again.

Describe the geographic location

The Great Bay is a tidal estuary that is located in eastern New Hampshire. In 2009, there was a report sent in that the "nitrogen load" had increased by 42% in the time period of only 5 years (The Tipping Point). The water clarity in Great Bay began to drop dramatically, as well as the oxygen levels. The Great bay is home to many organisms, but eelgrass had always been a major aspect of this area. Unfortunately though, 1,000 acres of the eelgrass have completely vanished since 1996. Not only that, but there has also been a 90% decrease in adult oyster population. Although these facts are alarming, one of the most surprising is the amount of nitrogen coming into great Bay. In recent years, it has been estimated that 1,225 tons of nitrogen have been coming into the Estuary, causing the 52 communities that intersect with this body of water to all be effected (Great Bay Matters).
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The Great Bay Estuary (Aerial)

What can be done to reduce, eliminate, or manage excess nutrients and solve this issue?

There have been many volunteer opportunities have been put in place to help reduce and manage the nutrients in this area. One service is known was the Costal Research Volunteer (CRV). The CRV has a focus on engaging volunteers with their work, while also using them to collect as much research on the Great Bay as possible( Great Bay Matters). Another group is known as the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBNERR). The GBNERR Has their own stewardship program, and collectors will monitor the reserved areas, while helping with jobs such as trash and debris removal. If someone wants to get involved, there are over 17 watershed/ river associations that work towards spreading the word to other communities about the water issues (Great Bay Matters) . These associations will occasionally go down to the water to interact by participating in shoreline cleanups, canoe trip, and also helping set up workshops that educate others on the proper steps for caring for your lawn, without causing harsh chemicals seeping into the Great Bay.

Surprising Fact: 6% of the nitrogen that comes into the estuary is from pet waste, so make sure you clean up after your animals! (Great Bay Matters)

How can People in this community fix this problem?

There are many different opportunities for a community member to help fix this problem happening in the Great Bay. One way would be by incorporating the entire community into a cleanup once a month. If everyone living near or around the Great Bay gathered just once a month for a cleanup, then there would be positive outcomes seen, such as a decrease in nitrogen. Another way people could help is by joining one of the volunteer groups located around the Great Bay Estuary. Like it was said above, these volunteer opportunities allow students and community members to go out into their backyard and fix these problems to help increase a positive and healthy life ( Great Bay Matters). Also, these community members can simply be more cautious about their fertilizer use. When the extra nutrients are controlled, it does not allow the harmful algal bloom to grow any larger, helping the environment on its road to recovery. Besides these options, there are many other alternatives to helping making the Great Bay a successful environment like it used to be. Just grab a few friends, put on some waders, and get involved!
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New Hampshire's very own, Baboosic Lake, in 2006, had a Harmful Algal Bloom problem.

Kate's Work Cited

None. "The Tipping Point." MAnAGeMent of StorMwAter And NonPoint Source Pollution NitroGen SourceS & PAthwAyS. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <>.

Noe. "Welcome | Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve." Welcome | Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Web. 01 Feb. 2016. <>.

Anderson, Donald, and Porter Hoagland. "Estimated Annual Economic Impacts from Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the United States." WHOI. Web. 3 Feb. 2016. <>.

"Great Bay Matters." Web. 5 Feb. 2016. <>.

"Seaweed Farming Linked to Qingdao's Green Tide of Algae." South China Morning Post. Web. 9 Feb. 2016. <>.

Kara's Work Cited

"What Are Harmful Algal Blooms?" Harmful Algal Blooms. Wisconsin View, n.d. Web.

1 Feb. 2016. <>.

"Why Do Harmful Algal Blooms Occur?" NOAA. Ed. NOAA. NOAA, n.d. Web. 1 Feb.

2016. <>.

"Harmful Algal Blooms." EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.

Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <


"Harmful Algal Blooms." NOAA. National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration,

n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <>.

University of New Hampshire. "Saving Great Bay." University of New Hampshire

Magazine 2014: 26-35. Print.