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Coastal Connections

A gafftop sailcat caught off one of the Conservancy's oyster reefs created from bags of old oyster shells.

Water from the Mississippi River travels downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, and 2011 events demonstrated the intricate interconnections of the nation’s waterways. Spring flooding affecting individuals and businesses along the river also significantly impacted the water of the Gulf, decreasing salinity and having considerable effects on plants and animals living there.

Oyster reefs which had weathered oil and increased temperatures in the last 12 months faced yet another challenge. Early spring surveys showed abundant reef health, but it will be months before final data is gathered on the health of the natural and revitalized reefs along the Mississippi coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is helping fund sub-tidal reef restoration in Bay St. Louis.

Sea grass is another natural treasure of the Mississippi coast that the Conservancy is working to protect. While often unseen, this small plant helps hold the underwater soil in place, providing a buffer for storm surges as well as habitat for a large number of animal species.

Salt marsh topminnow is a fish species found from Florida to Texas in small tidal creeks that drain freshwater into the Gulf of Mexico. The Conservancy is working with the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Gulf Coast Research Laboratory on a conservation plan for the species.

Not just underwater animals and plants are of interest. Birds at Cat Island (off the southwestern coast of Mississippi) will be studied to determine how best to conserve these avian ambassadors.

Coastal preserves continue to be an important component of the Conservancy’s work along the Gulf coast. Important coastal habitat continues to be added to the existing 30,000 acres in Mississippi’s three coastal counties, with the most recent addition being 70 acres of prime habitat. Thanks to the Secretary of State’s office and the Department of Marine Resources for working to advance this important program.

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