The Alabama Center for Ecological Resilience (ACER) Consortium came together to investigate how biodiversity influences an ecosystem’s resilience, or its ability to resist and recover from disturbance, specifically the ecosystems of the northern Gulf of Mexico to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ACER is focusing on the coastal ecosystems (marshes, beaches and estuaries) of the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Over the next 3 years, ACER scientists will examine the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem resilience across a gradient of oil exposure. Taxonomic, genetic and functional diversity will be considered at several scales and in many different groups of organisms. Experiments will be conducted both in the field and in large-scale controlled environments. Several ecological processes (primary productivity, nitrogen cycling, predation) as well as aspects of ecosystem structure (density, biomass, biodiversity) will be measured. Ecosystem services, such as shoreline stabilization and the availability of habitat, will also be assessed. Research results will not only allow for an assessment of oil spill impacts, but more generally, may also help to predict the impacts of other types of disturbance.
Next week ACER scientists, staff and students will convene in New Orleans to be a part of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Sciences (GoMOSES) conference.
The Gulf of Mexico Outreach Initiative (GoMRI) had a tall order to fill in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: investigate, understand, and educate the public on the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersants on the Gulf of Mexico and affected coastal states. The GoMRI Outreach Coordinators are now sharing what they learned with others looking to integrate or expand education and outreach efforts as a part of their research programs.