Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Open-File Report 2013–1256

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service and the Town of Bar Harbor, Maine

Changes in Nitrogen Loading to the Northeast Creek Estuary, Bar Harbor, Maine, 2000 to 2010

By Martha G. Nielsen

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.56 MB)Abstract

Since 1999, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service have been monitoring land use and nitrogen loading in a 26.3-square-kilometer (10-square-mile) estuarine watershed at Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. The initial study linking land use and nitrogen loads entering the Northeast Creek estuary was completed in 2000, and findings were used to develop simulations of nitrogen loading to the estuary, thereby helping to inform local land-use planning decisions. At that time, the amount of nitrogen entering the Northeast Creek estuary was relatively small, and no evidence of nutrient-related degradation was observed in the Ruppia-dominated estuarine ecosystem. A new round of water-quality monitoring and streamflow measurements was conducted to determine nitrogen loading from 2008 to 2011 as a means to evaluate the effects of increased rural residential housing within the watershed since 2000. On the basis of a 2.6-percent increase in residential-housing land use in the watershed from 2000 to 2010, simulations of nitrogen export predicted a 7-percent increase in nitrogen loading to Northeast Creek. The measurement-based loads estimated for the Northeast Creek tributaries, however, increased much more than predicted, from 1.89 kilograms per hectare per year (kg/ha/yr) in 2000 to 3.12 kg/ha/yr in the time period centered on 2010—a 66-percent increase. This increase is likely primarily a result of the prevalence of much wetter conditions during the 2008–11 sampling period than during the earlier sampling period. In addition to increasing the physical transport of nitrogen in the watershed, wet climatic conditions have been shown in other studies to increase the rates of biotic and abiotic processes that control nitrogen export from northern-latitude forested watersheds. The new loading estimates, however, also support the possibility that some portion of the increase in nitrogen loading results from the observed land-use changes, and that the increase in residential housing has, in fact, contributed to the observed increase in nitrogen loading.

First posted November 26, 2013

  • Table 2 PDF (20 kB)
    This is an electronic copy of Table 2 that contains a summary of streamflow and nitrogen-species concentrations for samples from Northeast Creek tributary monitoring sites, Bar Harbor, Maine, 2008–11.

For additional information, contact:
Office Chief, New England Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Maine Office
196 Whitten Road
Augusta, ME 04330
(207) 622-8201

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Nielsen, M.G., 2013, Changes in nitrogen loading to the Northeast Creek Estuary, Bar Harbor, Maine, 2000 to 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1256, 33 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)





Field Study of Nitrogen Loading to Northeast Creek, 2010 Time Period

Northeast Creek Watershed Land-Use Change, 2000 to 2010, and Predicted Effect on Nitrogen Loading

Changes in Estimated Total Nitrogen Loading to Northeast Creek, 2000 to 2010

Changes in Total Nitrogen Loading Based on Sampling Data, 2000 to 2010

Factors Affecting Total Nitrogen Loads and Loading Rates

Changes in Nitrogen Load Predicted from Land-Use Data Compared to Estimated Changes Based on Field Studies in the Northeast Creek Watershed

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: GS Pubs Web Contact
Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 26-Nov-2013 11:46:30 EST