Click for a larger image of the 3 Centuries of Change Graphic
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Background and Problem

Our estuaries have been impacted by human activity for several centuries. In recent years public concern over the apparent poor health of many estuaries has been growing, and consequently have resulted in a proliferation of laws and regulations intended to protect our estuaries. However, only by carefully linking cause and effect can we develop appropriate, cost effective, focused remedies for correcting, modifying, or mitigating effects.

Impacts on the Mt. Hope Bay Ecosystem:
  • Human Population Growth and Coastal Development
  • Water Quality Changes
    • power plant effluent
    • pollutants
    • nutrient enrichment
    • freshwater discharge
  • Climate Variability
  • Habitat Loss/Change
  • Natural Variations in Fish and Invertebrate Populations
  • Biological Community Change
    • prey populations
    • predator populations
    • competitor populations
  • Fishing Mortality and Other Impacts

Our Vision for the MHBNL

The Mt. Hope Bay Natural Laboratory is intended to be a total system analysis of the biological and physical dynamics of Mt. Hope Bay. It will be an interdisciplinary program to examine temporal sources of variation in the bay’s environment and community structure. Of particular interest is the development of integrated models of the physical environment, the ecosystem and fish populations that can be used to predict the impact of annual, seasonal, and episodic events on Mt. Hope Bay and regional resources.

Strategic Goals:

  • To develop a facility for the study of anthropogenic influences on estuaries in general.
  • To answer specific questions about the interaction of natural and anthropogenic forcing in MHB and its environs

Elements of a
Natural Laboratory:

  • Experimentation
  • Field Observations
  • Data Assimilation
  • Forecasting and Scenario Testing

Click for a larger image.
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The Generic Estuary Problem

The Mt. Hope Bay setting is one of climate scale natural changes in estuaries and watersheds and five centuries of anthropogenic impacts forcing ecosystem evolution. Major forcing factors include:

  • The climate weather system
  • Chanelization and other physical modification
  • Nutrients and other anthropogenic inputs
  • Urbanization effects on watershed inputs
  • Modification of downstream inputs via tidal and water-level modifications
  • Fishing

The challenge is to understand the evolution and causes of observed changes and to predict future scenarios. This involves, for example: hindcast, nowcast and forecast scientific (e.g. D.O. field) and societal (eelgrass and fish) observables.


The School for Marine Science and Technology
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
706 South Rodney French Blvd, New Bedford, MA 02744-1221
(508) 910-8193 • FAX (508) 910-6371
Brian Rothschild, P.I:
Changsheng Chen, MHBNL Modeling Program Manager:

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