By Gian Perani (’14, Colby College)
Quantifying the effects of buffering lakefront property has been the priority of the research group led by Russ Cole and Cathy Bevier this summer. Surveys of littoral and riparian zones have confirmed that residential properties with at least a buffer strip, which separates structures from water using trees and plant life, more closely resemble undeveloped sites than heavily developed sites. These surveys, conducted throughout the summers of 2012 and 2013, have focused on tangible measurements such as the amount of woody debris, leaf litter, tree density, and shading.
Much of our time this summer was dedicated to obtaining more quantitative data to reinforce this concept. Our group hypothesized that the “pore water,” or the water held within the sediment, would differ in nutrient content between three types of properties along shorelines, including buffered and unbuffered developed sites, and undeveloped reference sites. Obtaining samples from 72 sites (24 from Great Pond, North Pond, and East Pond) and extracting the pore water was a large task in itself. Analysis for soluble reactive phosphorus has been completed for our first round of sampling. We are also planning to test the pore water samples for ammonia as nitrogen in addition to phosphorus is a crucial limiting nutrient for aquatic life.
We have started determining the organic content of the sediment samples, which will hopefully tell us more about the benefits of buffering lakefront property. Getting good quantitative data to back up the qualitative analysis is key as we move forward towards completing this project.