Welcome to Plum Island Ecosystems LTER

The Plum Island Ecosystems LTER (PIE LTER) located in northeastern Massachusetts is an integrated research, education and outreach program with the goal of developing a predictive understanding of the long-term response of watershed and estuarine ecosystems to changes in climate, land use and sea level and to apply this knowledge to the wise management and development of policy to protect the natural resources of the coastal zone.

PIE LTER research is focused in the estuary and watersheds of Plum Island Sound in northeastern Massachusetts.  The estuary is fed by the Ipswich, Rowley and Parker Rivers with a combined drainage basin of 609km2.  The Plum Island Sound estuary is a coastal plain, bar-built estuary with extensive areas of productive tidal marshes: the largest expanse of intertidal marsh in the Northeast.

PIE LTER is administered by The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA . PIE is a member of the US Long Term Ecological Research Network funded by the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research Program.

Scale matters

Example of storm event flood in a suburban headwater stream (Burlington MA), after peak storm flow, showing how  flood waters go over bankfull, deposit sand, and scour the riparian zone of leaf litter.  (Wollheim photo). More information...

Tipping Points

Results of bioassay experiments showing the end-of-season standing biomass of S. alterniflora vs relative elevation at Plum Island (photo Morris). More information...

Salinity & Nitrogen

An aerial view of the upper Parker River Estuary, where the range in salinity is largest.  (photo Hopkinson). More information...

Modeling Microbial Chemistry

Microcosm experiments are being used to test theories about how natural microbial communities contribute to and define environmental chemistry. (photo Vallino). More information...

Spatially-Explicit Fish Movements

Because the restoration of anadromous fish attracts interest of the coastal community, river herring can serve as a focus for watershed restoration activities. (photo Holly Frank) More information...

Fiddlers on the Hoof

The fiddler crab (Uca pugnax), long regarded as a southern species, is on the move. (photo Jon Whitcomb)
More information....

Microbial workforce: Who's clocked in?

Of the millions of microbes present per milliliter of marsh soil or water, how many and which ones are metabolically active? .....More information.....

For PIE marshes, onward must be upward

More frequent flooding of the Spartina patens high marsh caused by rising sea level may threaten its survival (photo S. Bond).  More information…..

Marsh accretion vs sea-level rise

Measuring CO2 fluxes of carbon dioxide using instrumented towers to determine if marshes can accumulate enough organic matter to keep pace with sea level rise (photo Inke Forbrich) .  More information...

The PIE Watershed Paradox?

Do beaver ponds mitigate nitrogen loading from urban sprawl? (photo Wil Wollheim)  more.........

It's the tortoise not the hare

It is not the rare, extreme events that cause the most erosion in salt marshes; rather, it is the slow, steady forces of waves driven by moderate, frequent wind conditions (photo S. Fagherazzi).  More information….



PIE LTER Field Guide

PIE field guide (courtesy of EOL)

Tides, Plum Island Sound (south end)

Near real-time Weather and Water Quality

PIE LTER Weather- Marshview Farm, Newbury, MA
PIE LTER Wind - Ipswich Bay Yacht Club, Ipswich, MA
PIE LTER Water Level - Ipswich Bay Yacht Club
PIE LTER Water Quality - Ipswich Bay Yacht Club