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.
In an earlier post we talked about ACER’s focus on biodiversity. Scientists look at biodiversity at several scales such as the level of the ecosystem, or the species level and even the level of the individual organism. With modern gene sequencing technology, scientists are able to look at the variation in genes between individuals. We call this genetic diversity (biodiversity – at the level of molecules!). Let’s explore it in more detail.
At the recent American Elasmobranch Society (AES) Meeting in June, Emily Seubert, a graduate student in the ACER Consumer subgroup, presented her research titled “Species and functional diversity of apex and mesopredators in the northern Gulf of Mexico.”