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Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE)

The Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) is Mississippi's Center of Excellence under the RESTORE Act's Center of Excellence Research Grants Program. MBRACE is a consortium of Mississippi’s four research universities (Jackson State University (JSU), Mississippi State University (MSU), The University of Mississippi (UM), and The University of Southern Mississippi (USM)), with USM serving as the lead institution. The mission of MBRACE is to seek sound comprehensive science- and technology-based understanding of the chronic and acute stressors, both anthropogenic and natural, on the dynamic and productive waters and ecosystems of the northern Gulf of Mexico, and to facilitate sustainable use of the Gulf’s important resources. For more information regarding MBRACE please visit: MBRACE (usm.edu)

MSU MBRACE funded projects

MBRACE 2- Core Research Program Overview

The MBRACE Core Research program for 2020 – 2022 will continue to model and assess seasonal trends in Mississippi Sound water quality, the dynamics of freshwater inflow into the Sound, and the suitability of Sound waters for sustainable oyster production. During the initial round of Core Research Program funding (2018-2020), the MBRACE partners, at USM, MSU, JSU and UM, collected essential base-line data that supported assessments of western Mississippi Sound water quality, stressors impacting water quality, oyster biology and ecology, and oyster reef health and sustainability. This new project extends the original Core Research Program’s research activity through continuing to model and assess water quality in the western Mississippi Sound while expanding our research activities into bays and other coastal waters, assessing locations with the potential for sustainable estuarine ecosystem development, and synthesizing all data from the first phase of research for distribution and use by competitively funded projects. Due to record flooding in much of the Mississippi River valley, the Bonnet Carré spillway was opened in 2018 and twice in 2019 to relieve flooding pressure on levees in New Orleans. This unprecedented event resulted in a large influx of freshwater into the Mississippi Sound through Lake Pontchartrain. This project gathers the data needed to model and assess: (1) the return of water quality conditions in the western Mississippi Sound that can support and sustain existing oyster reefs; (2) oyster spat movement and successful recruitment onto reefs; (3) the reestablishment of oyster reefs growing toward harvestable size; and (4) the overall ecosystem services of the Sound. This provides the MBRACE team with a unique opportunity to study the recovery of an estuarine ecosystem from a major event. The effort to assess the Sound’s recovery and identify potential locations for establishing new oyster reefs consist of a comprehensive, interleaved observational and modeling approach that provides a holistic view of the Mississippi Sound marine ecosystem. The research integrates water quality and ecological data with a coordinated suite of numerical models. Data are obtained by ship-based sampling, in situ sensor platforms, and spat settlement experiments. The models provide insight on water quality conditions throughout the Sound, advective pathways suitable for oyster spat transport, settlement, and successful recruitment, and near real-time projection of the impact of spillway openings, flooding events, and storms. The use of high spatial and temporal resolution remotely sensed imagery provides all researchers with a synoptic view of conditions of the Mississippi Sound and the contributing land surface areas. Project results will provide a more thorough understanding of the recovery of the western Mississippi Sound and its oyster reefs, a science-based approach to selecting new areas for oyster and ecosystem restoration, and the initialization of a long-term set of data describing conditions in the Mississippi Sound.

MSU Project Personnel

Dr. Robert Moorhead
Director
Geosystems Research Institute
Mississippi State University
Dr. Padmanava Dash
Associate Professor
Geosciences
Mississippi State University
Dr. Prem Parajuli
Associate Professor
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Mississippi State University

Funding

This project was paid for with federal funding from the Department of the Treasury under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).

Period of Performance

August 2020 – December 2022

Competitive Research Program

The Distribution of Submarine Groundwater Discharge and its effect on Coastal Water Quality in Mississippi

Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) is an important, but poorly constrained, hydrologic process that affects coastal water quality by transporting environmental stressors, such as nutrients, contaminants, and pathogens, into the ocean. Although SGD water flux to the coastal ocean is usually lower than that of rivers and streams, it can often represent an equivalent or greater contribution to local nutrient budgets because solutes are highly concentrated in SGD relative to surface waters. Published hydrologic models and preliminary results indicate that SGD occurs in the Mississippi coastal waters and may directly contribute to degradation of water quality including eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, and ultimately hypoxia. However, the spatial and temporal variability of SGD in Mississippi coastal waters, as well as its specific chemical composition, are poorly constrained. Additionally, published results indicate that spatial heterogeneity in subsurface hydraulic conductivity created by infilled paleochannel drainage networks, such as those that underlie the Mississippi Sound (MS) and Mississippi Bight (MB), can control the location of SGD. This project uses geophysical profiling, geochemical tracer surveys, and SGD sampling in the MS and MB to quantify the spatial distribution and temporal variability of SGD as well as its chemical composition. The research evaluates the role of paleochannel features in mediating SGD distribution, the sources of chemically distinct SGD in the study area, and the effect of SGD on water quality with emphasis on nutrient loading and the onset of hypoxia. The results of this research will contribute to an improved understanding of the contribution of SGD to nutrient budgets and water quality degradation in the MS and MB. Additionally, they will constrain the spatial and temporal variability of this poorly understood nutrient transport pathway, which may inform improved management of water quality and the multiple commercial fisheries in coastal Mississippi. Finally, we anticipate that these data will be directly relevant to the multiple productive commercial finfish and shellfish fisheries in the study area, particularly oyster reef sustainability and the optimal siting of future oyster cultch deployments.

Project Personnel

Dr. Adam Skarke, Principal Investigator
Associate Professor
Geosciences
Mississippi State University
Dr. Alan Shiller
Professor
School of Ocean Science and Engineering
University of Southern Mississippi
Dr. Natasha Dimora
Associate Professor
Geological Sciences
University of Alabama

Funding

This project was paid for with federal funding from the Department of the Treasury under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).

Period of Performance

August 2020 – December 2022