Site: Plum Island Ecosystems LTER

Credit: Andrew Robison

Despite expanded suburban development, nitrogen fluxes to the estuary have remained steady since the early 1990s. River flow, which is becoming more variable along with climate, largely determines nitrogen retention. Imbalances between nutrient supply and demand reduce nutrient regulation during higher flows. Work at PIE LTER helped lead to a generalized framework for modeling material fluxes at river network scales – the River Network Saturation framework. Knowing when and where river networks become saturated for different constituents allows scientists and managers to better extrapolate to broader spatial scales, clarify the role of rivers in continental element cycles, and identify policy priorities.