Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
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 Ecosystem Health 

Dr. M.E. Frischer

Investigations of Coastal Ecosystem Health involve systematic efforts to study the preventative, diagnostic, and prognostic aspects of ecosystem management. The goal is to increase understanding of the chemical, biological, and physical processes in coastal ecosystems and to utilize this information to improve the management of coastal natural resources.
Georgia estuaries are of tremendous importance in terms of their economic (tourism, seafood industry, recreational and commercial fisheries worth $100M/yr) and ecological significance. However they are increasingly being negatively impacted by population growth and land use changes along the coast. Among the most serious of these is cultural eutrophication, whereby excess nutrients derived from many human activities fertilize estuaries, resulting in their environmental and ecological degradation. A serious consequence of cultural eutrophication is development of hypoxia, which reduces habitat for fish and shellfish, forcing migration to waters with higher oxygen; for non-motile organisms, oxygen below metabolic or reproductive thresholds can be lethal or can impair recovery from other stresses such as harvesting, disease, and sedimentation. Socioeconomic costs include losses to fisheries, seasonal tourism, and the seafood industry. Absent corrective action, a new, less anthroponomic ecosystem can be expected. An effective strategy to minimize cultural eutrophication and its side effects should provide decision-makers with information necessary, for successful policy. A long-term goal of Skidaway Institute research is to provide research results and modeling tools that can be used to assess alternative management strategies for mitigating impacts of eutrophication, to maintain environmental quality, biodiversity, and healthy ecosystem function.
The Georgia Oyster Watch (GEOW) aims at determining the affects different land uses in the coastal area have on Georgia's coastal environment, examining interrelationships of chemical and microbial indicators, and initiating an environmental observation system for coastal Georgia.

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