Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year 5-7 Consortia Grants (RFP-IV)

Project Overview

Alabama Center for Ecological Resilience (ACER)

Principal Investigator
Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL)
University of South Alabama Programs
Member Institutions
Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), Florida Gulf Coast University, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Northeastern University, Rutgers University, Siena College, The University of Alabama, University of Florida, University of South Alabama, University of South Florida


The Alabama Center for Ecological Resilience (ACER) team will focus its investigations on critical living resources that underpin the extraordinary productivity of the northern Gulf of Mexico's (nGoM ) "fertile crescent." We will use our existing in-depth understanding of the ecology of this economically vital region, along with an integrated program of sampling and experimentation to evaluate the role of biological diversity (ranging from genotype to ecosystem) in determining how the nGoM ecosystem can resist and recover from disturbance and stress produced by exposure to oil and dispersants.

The main objectives of the ACER are:

  1. To assess how coastal ecosystem structure, as measured by multiple estimates of biodiversity, and functioning (its provision of valuable processes and services) have been affected by differential exposure to Deepwater Horizon oiling.
  2. To determine how the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems can buffer resistance and recovery from oiling.
  3. To determine the conditions of disturbance that drive coastal ecosystems beyond their "tipping points," and prevent them from returning to their pre-disturbed states.

In summary, the ACER team will build upon knowledge gained from previous multi-decadal investigations of the nGoM and will conduct new studies to clarify the role of biodiversity in buffering the harmful impacts of oiling and exposure to dispersants. Ultimately, we expect this work to further our understanding of the extent to which biodiversity can ameliorate the stresses of oil pollution on the health, productivity, and services provided by coastal ecosystems.

Our research will not only document impacts of oil and dispersants on valuable components of our coastal ecosystems, but it will shed light on the biodiversity effects and mechanisms influencing those impacts. In addition, it will provide essential data regarding the relative sensitivities of habitat-forming species to oiling that can be used in restoration efforts. Finally, this work will further our general understanding of the extent to which biodiversity can ameliorate the effects of natural and other anthropogenic stresses on coastal ecosystems and contribute to the provision of ecosystem services upon which human communities depend.

Project Research Update (2017):

An update of the research activities from the GoMRI 2017 Meeting in New Orleans.

Direct link to the Research Update presentation.

Project Research Overview (2015):

An overview of the proposed research activities from the GoMRI 2015 Meeting in Houston.

Direct link to the Research Overview presentation.

This research was made possible by a grant from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.