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Land and Resource Use Ecological Forecasting

The focus of CSCOR's land and resource use research is to facilitate the development of ecological forecasting models as tools for decision makers. Land use ecological forecasts apply research results to management problems, allowing coastal managers to better predict future environmental conditions using current conditions and various management scenarios. Timely ecological forecasts can provide coastal managers with practical information for better ecosystem management in the face of cumulative impacts of multiple land use activities.

CSCOR research projects that currently involve understanding impacts of land use on coastal ecosystems include a multiple stressor study in the Barataria watershed of Louisiana, South Florida restoration effects on Florida Bay, hypoxia research in the northern Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. coastal areas and fish to model animal exposure to hazardous environmental contaminants.

For more information on CSCOR's land and resource use research programs click here.

Florida Bay and the Florida Keys

Since 1994 CSCOR has been an important Federal partner in funding interdisciplinary research in southern Florida to predict the future effects of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) on Florida Bay, the Florida Keys and adjacent waters. CSCOR's funded research program in Florida Bay combines multi- and interdisciplinary studies from currents, nutrients, microbes, plankton and upper trophic food webs to provide raw data for linked regional hydrodynamic-ecological models to forecast the impacts of Everglades restoration on the South Florida coastal ecosystem.

Barataria Bay

Coastal ecosystems are exposed to multiple stressors resulting from human activities that are ubiquitous and long-standing. Evaluating and understanding these stressors requires interdisciplinary investigations of scientists and management interests working together. The Barataria Multiple Stressor Research Program is a 5-year project that uses overlapping approaches for emergent, algal and pelagic food webs to determine the effects of multiple stressors on species and ecosystems. The Barataria watershed of Louisiana, a large estuary, is experiencing large habitat changes, anticipates a doubled nitrogen loading, has a significantly large fisheries yield and restoration program, and is adjacent to the Mississippi River (largest river in North America) whose watershed is proposed to be managed to reduce its nitrogen load.

This natural ecosystem experiment, complemented by a controlled large river diversion ( Mississippi River ), is a unique opportunity to receive scientific attention by a multi-disciplinary team of senior investigators. The project is yielding useful information through designed and opportunistic field experiments, analysis of long-term data sets, data syntheses, ecological and econometric modeling, and historical reconstruction of environmental change.

A multi-disciplinary team of experienced scientists is constructing a hierarchical suite of indicators of estuarine stress over various temporal and spatial scales, conduct uncertainty analysis of indicators, evaluate various estuarine mitigation strategies using ecological and economic criteria, and extend approaches to other estuaries. The outcome will quantify the effects of eutrophication, land use, habitat change, toxins, and other natural and anthropogenic stressors on phytoplankton, benthic and pelagic food webs, and emergent marsh.

Northern Gulf of Mexico and Other Coastal Areas

The northern Gulf of Mexico is becoming increasingly noted for the state-size area of low oxygenated water (i.e., hypoxia) that forms nearly every summer off the mouth of and west of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Two CSCOR-funded projects in the northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOMEX and ARC) are creating the necessary knowledge base to eventually forecast the timing, location and ecological effects of hypoxia. A third project, the Coastal Hypoxia

A long-term continuing CSCOR hypoxia research study in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOMEX) is documenting the temporal and spatial extent of the hypoxic (low oxygen) zone over the Louisiana continental shelf. This project provides a consistent and sequential series of long-term data that document the temporal and spatial extent of the hypoxic zone over the Louisiana continental shelf. The project collects hydrographic, chemical, and biological data related to the development and maintenance of hypoxia over seasonal cycles; enhances existing hypoxic zone surveys with a high resolution, undulating sensor package, continues public outreach and will add a web site for ready access to hypoxia information. The project studies help better define the relationships among nutrient fluxes, nutrient ratios, and carbon production and flux.

The second project (Aquatic Research Consortium) is characterizing habitat use of upper trophic levels (e.g., fish and shrimp) and commercial shrimpers over the Louisiana continental shelf relative to fine-scale spatial structure of oxygen. The goal is to develop statistical forecast models relating distribution, feeding success, and spatial overlap to important environmental variables; and to compare community structure and associated impacts of hypoxia at small and regional spatial scales.

The third CSCOR land use-related project (Coastal Hypoxia Research Program) is developing modeling tools and information which will be used by resource managers to assess alternative management strategies and make informed decisions regarding hypoxia in U.S. coastal waters. This project is focused on U.S. coastal areas exclusive of the northern Gulf of Mexico .

Fish as Models of Land Use Impacts

The Aquatic Research Consortium (ARC) addresses problems involving environmental and industrial, watershed security, and using innovative laboratory fish models to accurately and economically predict risks of aquatic contamination. The ARC fosters a team approach to solving industrial, watershed security, and environmental problems using innovative laboratory fish models to accurately and economically predict risks, particularly those related to human health effects of aquatic contamination and to the processing of drinking water. The consortium consists of two principal components: the College of Marine Sciences , The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Molecular Biosciences Research Program and Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center at Southwest Texas State University (SWT). The ARC serves as a resource to test newly developed methods and technologies to ensure accurate, dependable, economical and useful data on which risk management and regulatory decisions can be based.

The mission of the ARC is to bring contemporary scientific methodologies to bear on assessment of health impacts of the Nation's aquatic resources. This mission will be accomplished by application of recently developed microarray technology in model fish species to develop capabilities to delineate specific genetic changes that hallmark environmental conditions as assessed by analysis of feral fish. Further, the ARC will serve as a resource to test newly developed methods and technologies to ensure accurate, dependable, economical and useful data on which risk management and regulatory decisions can be based.