Mid-Breton Diversion Research Project Selected for Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Funding

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) has selected six research projects worth $1.3 million to receive funding in its 2022-2024 funding cycle. The university-based projects aim to help people, policy-makers and resource managers make decisions that lead to the responsible use of ocean and coastal resources in Alabama, Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico region.

MASGC strategically focuses its programs in the areas of environmental literacy and workforce development, healthy coastal ecosystems, resilient communities and economies, and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

“The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is an outcome-driven program that relies on a steady stream of high-quality and relevant scientific research,” MASGC Director LaDon Swann said. “These six projects will address high-priority needs across our focus areas.”

Dr. Kim de Mutsert is leading a project titled, “Evaluating potential effects of the Mid-Breton Diversion on living marine resources in the Mississippi Sound and Bight using a coupled modeling framework.” This team will develop a modeling framework to help anticipate the potential positive or negative effects the proposed Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion project would have on living marine resources in the Mississippi Sound. The diversion project would divert fresh water and sediment from the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, into the Breton Sound. Once developed and validated, the modeling framework also could be expanded to evaluate the impact of factors such as climate change, harmful algal blooms and overfishing on the Mississippi Sound.

The objectives of this project are:

  1. To develop a coupled modeling framework that encompasses the northern Gulf Coast from the Mississippi River Delta, including the planned Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion, to Mobile Bay, and can simulate processes from physics to fish in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama waters.
  2. To use the newly developed modeling framework to test effects of proposed Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion flow regimes on water circulation, salinity, temperature, biomass and distribution of living marine resources in the Mississippi Sound and Bight.
  3. To disseminate our results in academic and non-academic settings and help our partners use our output for management decisions.

The research team will develop a coupled modeling framework consisting of a ROMS model, habitat suitability models, and an ecosystem model develop with Ecopath with Ecosim. The Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) will be used as the circulation model at the core of an application of the Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Wave Sediment Transport (COAWST) modeling system to the Mississippi Bight. The Mid-Breton Sediment Diversion is incorporated into the model to allow for the flow of freshwater discharge into Breton Sound within the model domain.

The temperature and salinity output from the ROMS model will be used to create habitat suitability indices (HSI) as a means of quantifying habitat suitability for eastern oyster, blue crab and brown shrimp. Particle distribution as part of the ROMS model will be used to determine where oysters will settle. The team will adapt an existing Mississippi River Delta Ecospace model to include the Mississippi Sound and Bight. Maps of either HSI output (oysters, blue crab, brown shrimp) or temperature and salinity output from the ROMS model (all other species) in combination with habitat features will determine the habitat capacity of each grid cell for each model time step for each species. Lab experiments will augment the team’s knowledge on tolerance ranges of local species to water quality parameters, which will be included as response curves in the model.

Trophic interactions as part of the food web model will further influence the biomass and distribution of each species in each area. Field collections of environmental and water quality parameters such as temperature and salinity will be planned five times per year to calibrate and validate the models. The coupled modeling framework will be used to determine biomass and distribution of 41 species in the Mississippi Sound and Bight over decadal model runs.

Article originally posted on the MASGC website.

Learn more about the project and to see recent updates.

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