A Land-to-Sea Perspective to Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality
January 10, 2011
Healthy marine life is essential to Gulf of Mexico ecologies and economies. A delicate balance of nutrients and oxygen is at the heart of the Gulf’s health. Understanding the conditions that affect that balance can improve efforts to restore and maintain water quality. Observations of how nutrients and both particulate and dissolved organic matter travel and change as they move from freshwater to saltwater (the coastal transition zone) contribute to a broader ecosystem-level understanding. This knowledge can help improve coastal hypoxia and algal bloom forecasting and informs nutrient management efforts in the watershed.
NGI researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi in collaboration with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies are working to understand the effects of rivers and estuaries on coastal ecosystems. Researchers measure freshwater flow rates and nutrient, organic matter, and dissolved carbon dioxide levels. Using data from these measurements, researchers track changes as the water moves offshore through the transition zone. Sampling stations are located in the Mississippi Sound, Mississippi Bight, the Bay of Saint Louis, the Lower Pearl River Estuary, and in the Mississippi River. This time series of observations provide the baseline for trend analysis and advances science understanding of the ecosystem processes that transform riverine inputs of nutrients and carbon into the northern Gulf of Mexico. Understanding the fate and transformation of coastal freshwater and associated nutrient and carbon fluxes will help guide decisions and priorities for Gulf resource managers.