A team of Yale researchers will lead a five-year, $3 million study to determine whether an increase in extreme rain events is affecting the transport of dissolved organic matter (DOM) through the Connecticut River watershed, a phenomenon they say could alter the chemical composition and water quality of the watershed and Long Island Sound.
With funding from the National Science Foundation’s MacroSystems Biology program, researchers will collect data from dozens of points across the watershed, which begins in Canada and runs through five U.S. states, before emptying into Long Island Sound. Dissolved organic matter, a complex mix of compounds that leeches into waterways and gives rivers and streams their color, is a “master variable” in water systems; In addition to introducing both nutrients and pollutants, DOM influences the escape of carbon dioxide from the water and can impact the amount of light that penetrates the water. That, in turn, can affect levels of phytoplankton, a major food source for many organisms.
The researchers say that shifts in the transport of DOM could potentially impact mercury inputs to inland waters and the Sound, dissolved oxygen concentrations, and water clarity.