Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
In Alabama and Mississippi, Perdido Bay, Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound are important estuaries representing a total surface area of 2,309 square miles. Mobile Bay and the Pascagoula River drainage basin in the Mississippi Sound are of special concern to MASGC. The 480-square-mile Mobile Bay estuary contains a documented 337 species of fish, more species per area than any other region of North America. Of the 74 major river estuaries in North America, the Pascagoula River is the only one in the United States that remains unaffected by channel fragmentation and flow regulation. As a result, the Pascagoula River is a vital center of biodiversity and essential fish habitats for numerous threatened and endangered species.
The anthropogenic impact on estuarine ecosystems has led to a decline in total acreage of habitat. Estuarine ecosystems, such as salt marshes and other wetlands, seagrass meadows, oyster reefs and tidal basins physically protect coastlines, provide essential habitat and filter nutrients and other pollutants that degrade water quality and adversely affect ecosystem health. Estuaries provide critical habitat for numerous species of commercially and recreationally important waterfowl, migratory birds, marine mammals and sea turtles. The decreased area and fragmentation have led to a decline in the essential ecological benefits provided by these habitats.
MASGC will use its research, extension and education capabilities to support improved restoration strategies, assist in restoring essential estuarine habitats, and deliver tools, data, and services in support of ecosystem based management.