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Assessing the Potential Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Submersed Aquatic Vegetation and Waterfowl in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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


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Submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) communities are highly productive ecosystems that provide significant ecological benefits to coastal areas, including essential calories for wintering waterfowl. However, the potential effects of sea-level rise is posing new questions about the future availability of SAV for waterfowl and other coastal wildlife. Of primary concern is the fact that rising seas have the potential to increase salinities in fresh and brackish marshes on the Gulf of Mexico’s coast, changing the distribution and composition of SAV communities, and affecting valuable waterfowl habitat and food resources. Not enough is known about the relationship between salinity and SAV to predict how this important food resource will respond [...]

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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 salt water. 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.

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Snow geese in wetland - Public Domain
Snow geese in wetland - Public Domain


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • South Central CASC

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