Can Continental Shelf River Plumes in the Northern and Southern Gulf of Mexico Promote Ecological Resilience in a Time of Climate Change?
AbstractDeltas and estuaries built by the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River (MAR) in the United States and the Usumacinta/Grijalva River (UGR) in Mexico account for 80 percent of all Gulf of Mexico (GoM) coastal wetlands outside of Cuba. They rank first and second in freshwater discharge to the GoM and owe their natural resilience to a modular geomorphology that spreads risk across the coast-scape while providing ecosystem connectivity through shelf plumes that connect estuaries. Both river systems generate large plumes that strongly influence fisheries production over large areas of the northern and southern GoM continental shelves. Recent watershed process simulations (DLEM, MAPSS) driven by CMIP3 General Circulation Model (GCM) output indicate that the two systems face diverging futures, with the mean annual discharge of the MAR predicted to increase 11 to 63 percent, and that of the UGR to decline as much as 80 percent in the 21st century. MAR delta subsidence rates are the highest in North America, making it particularly susceptible to channel training interventions that have curtailed a natural propensity to shift course and deliver sediment to new areas, or to refurbish zones of high wetland loss. Undoing these restrictions in a controlled way has become the focus of a multi-billion-dollar effort to restore the MAR delta internally, while releasing fine-grained sediments trapped behind dams in the Great Plains has become an external goal. The UGR is, from an internal vulnerability standpoint, most threatened by land use changes that interfere with a deltaic architecture that is naturally resilient to sea level rise. This recognition has led to successful efforts in Mexico to protect still intact coastal systems against further anthropogenic impacts, as evidenced by establishment of the Centla Wetland Biosphere Preserve and the Terminos Lagoon Protected Area. The greatest threat to the UGR system, however, is an external one that will be imposed by the severe drying predicted for the entire Mesoamerican “climate change hot-spot”, a change that will necessitate much greater international involvement to protect threatened communities and lifeways as well as rare habitats and species. View Full-Text
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Kemp, G.P.; Day, J.W.; Yáñez-Arancibia, A.; Peyronnin, N.S. Can Continental Shelf River Plumes in the Northern and Southern Gulf of Mexico Promote Ecological Resilience in a Time of Climate Change? Water 2016, 8, 83.
Kemp GP, Day JW, Yáñez-Arancibia A, Peyronnin NS. Can Continental Shelf River Plumes in the Northern and Southern Gulf of Mexico Promote Ecological Resilience in a Time of Climate Change? Water. 2016; 8(3):83.Chicago/Turabian Style
Kemp, G. P.; Day, John W.; Yáñez-Arancibia, Alejandro; Peyronnin, Natalie S. 2016. "Can Continental Shelf River Plumes in the Northern and Southern Gulf of Mexico Promote Ecological Resilience in a Time of Climate Change?" Water 8, no. 3: 83.
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