Occurrence and Variation in Submersed Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) Along the Northern Gulf of Mexico: A Hierarchical Approach to Assess Impacts of Environmental Change on SAV Resources

Megan K. La Peyre
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 11/08/2023

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Submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) communities are highly productive ecosystems that provide significant ecological benefits to coastal areas. Despite their critical importance, and their global decline, the scientific community lacks consistent baseline data on SAV resources across the gradient from fresh to brackish (slightly salty) to saltwater. This project will 1) provide data on the occurrence and abundance of SAV (e.g., coverage, composition, seed resources) within the northern Gulf of Mexico, 2) quantitatively assess environmental factors affecting its variation across space and time, and 3) develop a conceptual model of factors influencing SAV resources. These data are critical in identifying numerical relationships between SAV resources and environmental variables, and will enable predictive modeling of SAV resources under different scenarios of landscape and climate change. This work will contribute to the refinement of existing models of ecosystem change and directly benefit efforts to forecast the effects of climate change on distribution, abundance, and diversity of SAV resources and the priority fish and wildlife populations that depend upon them.

Developing this science is a priority for the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative, as well as the South Central Climate Science, which provided significant support for this research. The project involves compiling consistent baseline data on the occurrence and abundance of submersed aquatic vegetation along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It also involves assessing and developing a conceptual model of environmental factors affecting vegetation variation. These data will enable predictive modeling of vegetation under different scenarios of landscape and climate change and contribute to the refinement of existing models of ecosystem change.

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Affiliated Organizations

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.

Established in 2012, the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center provides decision makers with the science, tools, and information they need to address the impacts of climate variability and change on their areas of responsibility. The Center will transform how climate science is conducted and applied in the south-central United States. We support big thinking, including multi-institutional and stakeholder-driven approaches to assessing the impact of climate extremes on natural and cultural resources.

The Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative was established in 2011 and is based out of Lafayette, Louisiana. It is part of a network of 22 similar partnerships throughout the United States and our neighboring countries.