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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances


San Francisco Bay Estuary Priority Ecosystem Study

A bar graph that shows the months that peak chlorophyll concentrations occurred.
Phytoplankton populations in estuaries such as San Francisco Bay, California, are influenced by a host of local stresses that mask plankton responses to global climate change. The above bar graph shows the months that peak chlorophyll concentrations occurred in 116 coastal water bodies in the northern temperate zone. The distribution is surprisingly even from March through September, although, peaks occurred throughout the year. The distribution shows no characteristic single seasonal pattern, a large departure from the regular seasonal pattern of plants on land that is tightly tied to the annual climate cycle (The graph is a modified version of figure 4 from Cloern and Jassby, 2008).
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Diverse organic and inorganic contaminants that vary widely in their environmental behavior, sources, and toxicity enter the San Francisco Bay estuary. Toxic substances enter the estuary in agricultural and urban runoff and in discharges from municipal wastewater facilities and industries. The study focuses on the movement, fate, and effect of contaminants from a variety of agricultural, industrial, and urban sources, such as pesticides and toxic trace elements, and on the effects of the highly varying hydrologic conditions in river--estuarine environments. Scientists are developing an approach to characterize the distribution of contamination and the resulting ecological effects that will be applied in similar environments elsewhere.

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