I recently attended the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (EESLR-NGOM) workshop in Apalachicola, FL where I was introduced to the 5 year project being led by UCF and others.  The team is assessing the impacts of sea level rise and coastal storms on marshes and oyster habitats in the Northern Gulf of Mexico by developing predictive models that managers can use for long-term planning (for more information about this project visit http://www.coastalscience.noaa.gov/projects/detail?key=162).   During the workshop, one of the questions posed by the organizer was, “How can we apply the tools from EESLR-NGOM?”  I immediately thought of the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment (GCVA).

The GCVA is assessing the vulnerability of four pilot habitats (mangroves, tidal emergent marsh, barrier islands, and oyster reefs) and species associated with each habitat to climate change, sea level rise, and land use change across the northern Gulf of Mexico.  To determine if vulnerability among these habitats and species varies spatially, we divided the Gulf into regions.  A vulnerability assessment tool such as the Standardized Index of Vulnerability and Value Assessment (SIVVA) will be used to evaluate habitat and species vulnerability.  We are relying on expert knowledge and the best available data to inform the assessment. When combined with published literature, expert judgment has been shown to be highly accurate (Clevenger et al. 2002).

So, why is the GCVA a good vessel for applying your research?  Using the EESLR-NGOM project as an example, let’s first consider the study area which includes the three National Estuarine Research Reserves: Apalachicola, FL, Weeks Bay, AL, and Grand Bay, MS.   The PIs are very familiar with how the habitats and species within the NERRs responds to various environmental drivers that influence vulnerability.   As the PIs work through the vulnerability assessment tool, they can rely on their own expertise in combination with results from their own projects and other projects taking place within the area.    By using their own research to inform the assessment, their projects will receive Gulf-wide exposure in the final GCVA document.  Furthermore, the results from this assessment will eventually inform Gulf-wide adaptive management strategies (phase II of the GCVA).  The experts will have the opportunity to provide their insight into the best adaptive management practices for their area based on the results of the GCVA.  Participating in the GCVA, shares your research with others across the Gulf and allows you to be the voice for your region.

GCVA groups have been started on all of the Gulf Coast LCC websites. Click here for a direct link to the group on the South Atlantic LCC website.  Under the GCVA Documents tab, you can find information about how we’ve divided the Gulf into regions, a list of the species and habitats, and what participation involves.  I will update group as the project moves forward.  If you would like to know more about the project, please call (228-688-3746) or email (amandaw@gri.msstate.edu) me.

Clevenger AP, Wierzchowski J, Chruszcz S, Gunson K (2002) GIS-generated, expert-based models for identifying wildlife habitat linkages and planning mitigation passages. Conservation Biology 16:503-514.