• Lush vegetation on the top of Spectacle Island's North drumlin dominates the foreground. Boston's skyline can be seen in the distance.  The park's logo with tag line minutes away, worlds apart empashises the stark contrast between the city and islands.

    Boston Harbor Islands

    National Recreation Area Massachusetts

Harbor Improvements

David Taylor
Environmental Quality Department
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

 
Delivered at 2003 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium.

The waters of Boston Harbor surround most of the islands of the Boston Harbor Island national park area. Water quality in the Harbor has shown improvements since wastewater discharges to the Harbor were ended in September 2000. The purpose of this paper is to present some of these improvements.

One of the largest improvements has been a decrease in concentrations of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the Harbor water-column; N and P are the two nutrients most responsible for “eutrophication” (or over-enrichment) of coastal aquatic systems. Average concentrations of N and P have decreased by about one-half, and over most of the Harbor area.

The Harbor has also shown a decrease in quantities of suspended microscopic algae (or phytoplankton). Quantities of phytoplankton (measured as concentrations of chlorophyll) have decreased by about one-third. The decrease has been observed mainly in summer, and in the North Harbor.

The Harbor has also shown an increase in water clarity. Clarity averaged over the Harbor as a whole has increased by about one-tenth. The increase has been greatest during summer, and in the North Harbor.

We have also seen a small but statistically significant increase in bottom-water dissolved oxygen (DO). DO has also increased by about one-tenth for the Harbor as a whole, again mainly in the North Harbor.

Did You Know?

Boston's Long Wharf Today

Public ferries to Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area leave from Long Wharf, the oldest continuously used wharf in the United States. It was aptly named Long Wharf in 1710 as it stretched 1,586 feet into the port of Boston making it the longest wharf in America. More...