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Scientists predict fewer stresses on Neuse Ecosystem

Sea Grant North Carolina

Scientists are forecasting a lower probability of fish kills on the Neuse River this summer. A model produced by scientists at North Carolina State and UNC-Chapel Hill is predicting higher levels of dissolved oxygen this summer in the Neuse River Estuary. That could mean fewer stresses to the Neuse’s ecosystem, including fish kills. The model last year successfully predicted unusually low levels of dissolved oxygen in the Neuse.  The critical factor in the model is predictions of dissolved oxygen in the estuary’s lowest three feet. Whereas last year’s model predicted oxygen levels below 2.0 milligrams per liter, the model this year predicts 3.4 milligrams during the July to August time frame. A wet winter and early spring can partially take credit, producing higher discharge levels reducing algal accumulation in the estuary’s upstream portion.  Scientists note substantial uncertainty in predicting water quality months in advance. Events such as tropical weather can boost oxygen levels but also dump oxygen-demanding organic matter in the estuary. Fish kills can also be caused by things apart from low-oxygen levels, such as a May fish kill primarily linked to fungus.