Stewardship program managers use Sea Grant research to refine plans for burning high marshes in MS
Habitat degradation caused by storm debris has decreased ecological services provided by coastal ecosystems and has altered their resilience to climate change. Research on storm and fire impacts, which are predicted to increase in frequency or intensity with climate change, can inform resource managers on methods strategies to sustain coastal ecosystems.
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) researchers worked with Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve partners to assess the interactive effects of prescribed fire and hurricanes on a black needlerush marsh. This approach permitted an examination of multiple-factor interactions that influence ecological processes and ecosystem sustainability.
MASGC supported researchers found that high marsh areas are more vulnerable to fire than other marsh areas because they accumulated highly combustible wrack after hurricanes, and the plants are therefore slower to recover following a fire. Resource managers for the state of Mississippi are using these research results to refine prescription plans for burning on state lands and to minimize risks to potentially vulnerable high marsh areas.
Managers at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve make coastal management decisions based on Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded research on hurricanes and fire interactions in a black needlerush marsh. (2014)