A COMPARISON OF NUTRIENT CONCENTRATIONS IN WETLANDS ACROSS LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK TO POPULATION DEMOGRAPHICS AND GEOGRAPHICAL CHARACTERISTICS
While nitrates and phosphates are essential nutrients required for photosynthesis in aquatic ecosystems, excess levels can cause a chain reaction of ecological damage through a process called eutrophication. Eutrophication occurs gradually in a natural setting, but is accelerated due to human waste, excess fertilizer use, and other anthropogenic sources. In eutrophied waters, excess nitrates and phosphates cause algal blooms on the water’s surface, blocking light from reaching plants and animals underneath and eventually leading to the loss of dissolved oxygen and the potential death of aquatic organisms relying on that dissolved oxygen. These algal blooms, along with nitrate pollution itself, can be detrimental to human health and the local economy. This study sought out to measure nitrate and phosphate concentrations in wetlands across Long Island, New York, and compare these values to population density, income levels and other economic demographics, geographical characteristics, and the presence or absence of sewer systems. In regression analyses with population demographics, it was found that there is no relationship between nutrient concentrations and population density, along with no relationship between nutrient concentrations and economic factors. With the use of two-sampled t-tests, it was found that significantly higher nitrate concentrations were found in areas not covered by sewer systems as opposed to areas that were with 99% confidence, along with the same for phosphate concentrations with 90% confidence. It was also found that significantly higher phosphate concentrations were found in Suffolk County, which has less sewer system coverage than its counterpart, Nassau County. Finally, significantly higher phosphate concentrations were found on the south shore of the island as opposed to the north shore, which can be attributed to Long Island’s glacial origin.