Mission Statement

Improved documentation and understanding of the global pervasiveness of human-induced ecosystem changes requires us to acknowledge that virtually no ecosystem on earth completely retains its prehistoric structure and function (Vitousek et al. 1997). Human-induced changes are especially evident in the coastal zone, where dramatic population growth in the past century, along with attendant shifts in land and water use patterns, industrial development, and natural resource harvesting (Matson et al. 1997; Vitousek et al. 1997; Dayton et al. 1995) are often accompanied by a shift from clear water, macrophyte-dominated conditions to very turbid, plankton-dominated waters (Duarte 1995). Correlated effects, such as noxious algal blooms (Vitousek et al. 1997) and large volumes of hypoxic and anoxic waters (Rabalais et al. 1996) are also common along heavily developed watersheds and shorelines. Currently unavailable, however, is a mechanistic understanding of how human-induced modifications singly, and most importantly, in concert, produce changes in the structure and function of coastal ecosystems. To make progress in developing this mechanistic understanding we have designated the following as primary goals of the Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies (ACES): 1) the use of sustained experimentation and observation to understand how the most common human-induced modifications of the coastal zone produce changes in ecosystem structure and function; and 2) the application of this understanding to develop prudent management strategies for sustaining the productivity of our coastal land and seascapes. 


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