Rationale and Philosophy

We will focus our efforts on some of the most common, yet incompletely understood modifications of the coastal zone, both singly and in concert. We are especially interested in:  

  • the effects of eutrophication resulting from both point and non-point sources, including harmful algal blooms, decreasing water clarity and hypoxia
     

  • the effects of changing land use patterns in the watershed, including the consequences of changing agricultural practices, logging and urbanization

  • the direct and indirect effects of harvesting finfish and shellfish, including physical alterations of the substrate as well as shifts in species composition

  • basic biological parameters, likely to be impacted by anthropogenic changes, of key estuarine and nearshore species, especially species of major ecological or economic importance

  • the social and economic impacts of continued human-induced modifications of coastal environments

  • the development and testing of a wide variety of strategies for: 1) improved understanding and prediction of human-induced changes in coastal ecosystems; and 2) promoting the use of adaptive management practices to solve problems in the coastal zone

These are some of the most important issues affecting coastal environments nationally, and are also considered to be the most pressing in the northern Gulf of Mexico and Alabama coastal waters. A conceptual framework for how these factors are believed to interact is outlined in Figure 1.

 

Figure 1. Linkages involving species composition and diversity and ecosystem processes. Ecosystem processes include productivity and nutrient cycling. Regional processes include nutrient fluxes from terrestrial to aquatic systems. Community processes include competition and predation. Ecosystem services are the benefits derived by humans from ecological processes. Slightly modified from Chapin et al. 1997.


Examples of potential projects could include assessing the consequences of exotic species introductions (e.g. Eurasian water milfoil) on native oligohaline ecosystems, (under the "Biotic Introductions and Removal" link), or the effects of changing land use patterns in the watershed (e.g. shifts in clear-cutting activities) on the entire estuary (under the "Land Use" link). Where appropriate, investigators will be encouraged to use manipulative field experimentation to address the focus areas listed above, and to assess the effects of multiple stressors concurrently. While field experiments are not always feasible or appropriate, the use of carefully designed manipulative experiments will help us move forward at the most rapid rate in achieving our goals.

There are two levels of support for ACES projects, which are similar to those used by the NSF's Ocean Sciences Division: Regular Grants, which will usually include multi-year funding in the amounts of $50-$150K annually and be subject to rigorous peer review; and Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER), with funding usually for one or possibly two years in the range of $10-30K per year, and greater flexibility for investigators to initiate new areas of study or develop proof of concept for potentially risky research efforts.

 

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