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.
When ACER scientists designed their mesocosm experiments, they had to decide what kind of oil, or oily constituents to use. Was crude oil more appropriate to use to answer their questions, or weathered oil? What about water that came in contact with the oil? What toxins leach into the surrounding water? In this installment of Tool Talk, we examine WAF, or the water accommodated fraction.
Just like a healthy garden, a healthy ocean floor has worms and other animals that move through, ingest and affect the characteristics of the ocean floor sediment. This process is known as bioturbation. In this installment of Word Wednesday, we will explore this process of bioturbation, who are the key players, what they do and why this process is important.