Long-term Ecosystems Dynamics in Coastal Lagoons of Perdido Bay, Florida
Project Leader: Dr. Just Cebrian
Funding Agencies: NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center, Northern Gulf Institute, National Science Foundation, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies
Over the past decade, we have been surveying three coastal lagoons in the Perdido Bay area. This work has been funded by several agencies, including NSF, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies. Four students have graduated from that work (one MS and three Ph.D.'s) and a good number of papers are in press or submitted. The variables measured comprise physical and chemical variables (water-column salinity, temperature, oxygen, light penetration, water-column dissolved inorganic nitrogen, dissolved organic nitrogen, particulate organic nitrogen, phosphate, and sediment pore water inorganic nutrients).
Biological variables (microalgal chlorophyll concentrations in the water-column and sediment, seagrass structure, biomass and productivity, seagrass nutrient content, epiphyte biomass, diversity and abundance of invertebrate fauna in seagrass patches and bare sediment, and system metabolism-gross primary productivity, respiration, and net community productivity for water-column, seagrass patches and bare sediment) are also monitored. Furthermore, the three lagoons cover a wide gradient of human pressure, from a pristine lagoon to a lagoon with a moderately developed watershed to a lagoon with a highly developed watershed, thereby allowing us to make inferences as to how human utilization of watersheds affects the health of coastal lagoons and services offered to humankind and wildlife. Thus, this research is proving instrumental for the creation of policies of environmentally-sustainable development and use of coastal watersheds by humans. We are continuing our survey and carrying out manipulative experiments to improve our understanding of these systems and our ability to create effective environmental policies.