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Blue Moon Estuary Cruise

Estuaries are partially enclosed bodies of water where fresh and salt water mix. Worldwide, estuaries represent some of the most productive places on earth, acting as nurseries for important fisheries, providing habitat for resident and migratory birds and supporting organisms and material (such as phytoplankton and detritus) that form the basis of important food webs. Estuaries also support large human populations and economies because of the high productivity. Of the 32 largest cities in the world, 22 are located on estuaries. The Pontchartrain Estuary, located in southeastern Louisiana, is an important nursery area for Gulf of Mexico estuarine-dependent commercial fisheries. Lake Pontchartrain‘s proximity to New Orleans and other urbanized areas makes it a recreational resource while also a large component of the estuary which extends for over 130 miles from east to west.  It is through this estuary that storm surge passes, threatening the surrounding communities.  It is also through the estuary the nearly all recreational and commercial fisheries species migrates.

Due to the importance to many organisms and proximity to large urban areas, it is important to have a good understanding of the processes that affect the Pontchartrain Estuary and how these processes affect the animals and humans that use the estuary. The Pontchartrain Estuary has been studied for decades, but not in a systemic way. The Blue Moon Estuary Cruise was conducted over three years to collect biologic and water quality data, in order to enhance our understanding of the estuary.

Estuary Cruise Data Collection Methods

LPBF conducted the Blue Moon Estuary Cruise through the Pontchartrain Estuary to collect biological and water quality information for a snapshot of the estuary over a 3-week period in June and July of  2013 through 2015. The cruise involved the collaboration and coordination of four different sampling efforts for: (1) benthic organisms and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV); (2) oyster; (3) nekton and blue crab; (4) basin-wide water quality. The cruise collected data spanning from the freshest to the most saline portions of the estuary. Data collected from this cruise will be compared to historical fisheries and water quality data to determine and quantify the changes in species composition, abundance, health, and overall water quality.

Sampling plan for the Blue Moon Estuary Cruise. This plan is for the first cruise in 2013, but sampling was similar in 2014 and 2015, although adapted based on what we learned in 2013.

Results

The data for the three years of the Blue Moon Estuary Cruise is still being analyzed and results will be available soon. Hypoxia data is collected multiple times a year as part of a larger study and results can by found on the Hypoxia – East Side of Mississippi River project page.