The Herring Run

News and Information about the
 August 2018

Above, interns from Wheaton College in Norton Massachusetts, Jennifer Loveland-Rose and Rachel Crafford, along with Friends of Herring River volunteer, Steve Bliss, have been busy monitoring diamondback terrapin activity in the Herring River. Every day at hide tide, they have been counting terrapins on both sides of the Chequessett Neck Road dike. Each day, the interns also walk from the Dike to the path to the Tavern site to look for terrapins and mark their nests.   This activity is part of a long term monitoring project to assess the use of this habitat by terrapins prior to the restoration of the Herring River. The expectation is that our Wellfleet terrapins, a species listed as "threatened" in Massachusetts, will greatly benefit from the restoration.
Thanks to all participants in this summer's Herring River field trips. Above, Ecologist John Portnoy explains the dire consequences of tidal restriction on estuaries such as Herring River. 
Check out these videos starring 
Herring River 
Join Us on the Lookout for Diamondback Terrapin Hatchlings  in the 
Herring River Estuary
The Herring River Estuary is a prime location for diamondback terrapins, a state-listed turtle species.   However, terrapin habitat is limited to the salt marsh area of the estuary, which has been reduced as a result of tidal restrictions imposed by the Herring River Dike. Barbara Brennessel, Professor Emerita, Wheaton College, along with Wheaton interns and other volunteers, has been monitoring terrapin nesting on Great and Griffin islands and along the "Gut," which connects the islands for seven years.
This field trip will take us to the Herring River Estuary where we will assess the success of terrapin nests, laid in June and July. The walk is about 2-3 miles round trip and will take about 2 hours.
Meet in the Great Island Parking Lot, September 13th at 9am.
Dissolved Oxygen Stress Persists in Herring River

The surface waters of Wellfleet's Herring River are under constant dissolved-oxygen stress because the Chequessett Neck dike blocks the supply of oxygen-rich seawater that is needed to balance the huge oxygen demand of organic matter accumulated of 2000 years of marsh and peat development. Under natural, undiked conditions the oxygen demand of a salt-marsh estuary's decomposing organic matter is met by the infusion of aerobic seawater - every 12 hours, i.e. during every high tide.   The graph above from early this August typifies the Herring River's oxygen status during the warm summer months, when oxygen demand is very high. Note the drastic fluctuations each day. The ultimate cause of these fluctuations is the high oxygen demand of peat coupled with the very limited inflow of aerobic seawater from Cape Cod Bay. Dissolved oxygen is high during the day, due to photosynthetic oxygen production, but plummets at night when aquatic animals, plants and microbes are all respiring, i.e. consuming oxygen. According to the EPA, dissolved oxygen concentrations below 4.8 mg/L are chronically stressful to aquatic life; concentrations below 2.3 mg/L acutely limit juvenile and adult aquatic animal survival. It's evident that fish and other aquatic fauna often experience acutely stressful conditions in the diked Herring River. Conditions are worst during cloudy and rainy periods, with more runoff of organic matter and less light to fuel photosynthetic oxygen production, e.g. 10-13 August in the data set above. In the past, rainy periods in summer often resulted in the complete depletion of dissolved oxygen in the river's main stem and the total die-off of emigrating juvenile herring. The return of daily tides to Herring River will result in higher and much more stable dissolved oxygen concentration.
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