The Alabama Center for Ecological Resilience, better known as ACER, was created to better understand the role biological diversity (at the genetic, taxonomic and functional level) plays in determining the resiliency of the northern Gulf of Mexico ecosystem to impact of oiling and dispersants. One of 12 consortia funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative during 2015-2017, and led by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, ACER is comprised of 18 researchers across 9 institutions. ACER’s seven integrated research groups will focus on the GoMRI’s Research Theme 3 to study the “Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes, and organisms; and the science of ecosystem recovery.”
Over the next 3 years, ACER scientists will conduct novel research that utilizes our extensive historical databases, state-of-the-art analytical techniques, and expertise in hypothesis-based experimental marine science to compare and contrast the susceptibility and response of the northern Gulf of Mexico to disturbance by oil pollution. The synthesis that results from these studies will be the first to encompass such a broad range of taxa, habitats and levels of biodiversity, and will be a landmark study of the role of biodiversity in regulating ecosystem productivity and resilience.
Hypothesizing that the genetic, taxonomic and functional diversity of coastal ecosystems determine their resistance to, and recover from, oil and/or chemical dispersant exposure, ACER scientists have 2 objectives:
- Assess (i) ecosystem structure, as measured by density, biomass and multiple measures of biodiversity, and (ii) ecological processes (productivity, nutrient cycling, and predation) and ecosystem services (habitat provisioning, and shoreline stabilization) across a gradient of oiling resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster along the northern Gulf of Mexico.
- Determine how the genetic, taxonomic and functional, biodiversity of coastal ecosystems influences their responses to oiling.
These objectives will be addressed through field observations and laboratory experiments, studying organisms ranging from the microbial to apex predators within an area extending from the mid-shelf to coastal wetlands. Visit our Research page to learn more about our work.
On May 24, 2010, shortly after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, BP announced a commitment of up to $500 million over 10 years to fund an independent research program designed to study the impact of the oil spill and its associated response on the environment and public health in the Gulf of Mexico. Administered by an independent Research Board of 20 members who are science, public health, and research administration experts, the mission of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is to investigate the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and affected coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events and their environmental stresses and public health implications. The GoMRI will also develop improved spill mitigation, oil and gas detection, characterization and remediation technologies.
The ultimate goal of the GoMRI is to improve society’s ability to understand, respond to and mitigate the impacts of petroleum pollution and related stressors of the marine and coastal ecosystems, with an emphasis on conditions found in the Gulf of Mexico. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improving the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.