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Winter Water Quality in Long Island Sound

Despite the recent warm weather, the temperature of Long Island Sound is at or near its lowest point at this time of year.  What is the quality of the water?  First, this is the clearest water we’ll see all year! The cloudiness (turbidity) of the water is affected by the presence of plant and animal plankton. As you might expect, there is very little plankton surviving in the water this time of year so the turbidity of the Sound is very low.

Another water quality issue is salinity, the balance between fresh and salty water. At this time of year, rain and snow add fresh water to the Sound, which lowers the salinity. Following winters with heavy snow (not this winter), as the weather warms and melt-water enters the rivers, the salinity of the Sound decreases even further. What does this mean for the plants and animals?  The ecosystems of estuaries, like Long Island Sound, can fluctuate widely from year to year.  Over time, its plants and animals have developed a resiliency to these changes so they should feel little impact from a relatively small and completely natural change in salinity.