Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory in Elkhorn Slough (LOBO)


The aim of the LOBO project is to design and develop a real time chemical sensor network for marine systems. The observing system uses in situ chemical sensors to determine chemical fluxes into, within, and out of Elkhorn Slough. The biogeochemical processes that produce these fluxes are then assessed. The primary focus is to measure nutrients, such as nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate, using instruments that allow for high-resolution sampling and the ability to access the data in near-real time. Water properties such as salinity, temperature, and current velocity are combined with the nutrient measurements to determine important processes that affect the biogeochemistry of Elkhorn Slough. The LOBO project is headed by Dr. Ken Johnson at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Funding is provided by a National Science Foundation BioComplexity Grant (ECS-0308070) and by MBARI by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Elkhorn Slough

Elkhorn Slough, located on Monterey Bay, CA (map), is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Home to a rich diversity of organisms, the slough is a breeding area for many of Monterey Bay's marine inhabitants and an important migratory bird location. As with many estuaries in the United States, Elkhorn Slough and the watershed are host to numerous human activities, including agricultural use, an active fishing harbor, and a power plant at the harbor entrance.

See photographs of the slough

The combination of complex estuarine characteristics, anthropogenic impacts, and many nutrient sources make Elkhorn Slough a challenging environment to accurately characterize biogeochemical processes using traditional monitoring methods. Therefore, the slough is an ideal place to demonstrate the potential of in situ nutrient sensor networks as an important new direction of the aquatic sciences.

Goals of the LOBO program

The overarching goal of the project is to demonstrate that significant synergies accrue from operating a complete network of autonomous, biogeochemical sensors for extended periods. In this sense, the sensors and observing system are a pilot study for larger projects that are envisioned by the ocean community, such as the NSF Ocean Observatories Initative. The ability to study the interactions of the hydrological cycle, nutrient chemical cycles and human alterations of these cycles at the land/ocean boundary is a fundamental component of coastal zone management, and one that has traditionally been a major scientific challenge. Specific resource management concerns of the NERRS, such as degraded coastal water quality, loss and alteration of estuarine and watershed habitat, habitat restoration, reduction of biodiversity, and problematic effects of pollution and invasive species are relevent issues in Elkhorn Slough. The LOBO project is a demonstration of how a real time aquatic sensor network can significantly increase our ability to address these issues and contribute to the generation of information that leads to sound resource management.

Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory
Website by: Joe Needoba
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Last updated: Feb. 06, 2009