Impact of Mississippi River

Full Title: The central role of the Mississippi River and its delta in the oceanography and ecology of the Gulf of Mexico large marine ecosystem

Lead Investigator (Institution): Alexander Kolker (Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium) akolker@lumcon.edu

Co-investigator (Institution): Brian J. Roberts (Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium) and Alisha Renfro (National Wildlife Federation)

Collaborators (Institution): Philip Chu (NOAA), Natalie Peyronnin (Environmental Defense Fund), and Caz Taylor (Tulane University)

NOAA Technical Points of Contact: Caitlin Young (caitlin.young@noaa.gov) and Kate Rose (kathryn.rose@noaa.gov)

Award Amount: $309,276

Award Period: September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2017

Summary: While it is well known that the Mississippi River is the largest source of freshwater, nutrients and sediments to the Gulf of Mexico, and that its delta is a major habitat for ecologically and economically important species, many elements of river/delta/ocean interaction are still poorly understood. This project will investigate the influence of the Mississippi River and its delta on the oceanography, ecology, and economy of the Gulf of Mexico; identify the gaps in data collection, model availability and model integration that would allow managers to better sustainably manage and monitor the Gulf’s natural resources; evaluate the role of extreme events and potential climate change impacts on the oceanography, ecology and economy of the Gulf of Mexico; and disseminate the results of this work. The investigators will accomplish their goals through two activities. They will conduct a series of workshops, comprised of experts in the oceanography, ecology and economy of the Gulf of Mexico. These experts will be tasked with identifying, understanding and interpreting the physical drivers in the region; the ecological, water quality, and economic responses to these forcings; and the data sources and models that will allow the investigators to quantify these impacts. To provide a quantitative base for discussion in the workshops, the investigators will also compile historical outputs from physical oceanographic models to provide an overview of the Gulf of Mexico and the role of riverine and deltaic forcings. The environmental drivers that the investigators will examine include variability in magnitude of Mississippi River discharge, changes in the direction of river plume, variability in coastal currents, extreme weather events (cold fronts and hurricanes), and nutrient and carbon loadings.