The coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico are home to some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems in the world but over multiple decades, the quality of Gulf of Mexico coastal waters have declined due to several factors including pollution caused by human activities, ocean acidification, and global climate change. The declining health of coastal waters leads to more frequent harmful algal blooms caused by excessive nutrient pollution, fish kills resulting in declines of many commercially important fish species causing impacts to the Gulf economy, habitat loss, and more.
Harte’s interdisciplinary approach will employ diverse research to focus on understanding the key ecosystem processes affecting estuarine and coastal water quality. The research will aim to solve complex and pressing regional environmental problems while recognizing that solutions will require balancing environmental as well as human and economic needs. Our research recognizes that healthy habitats support productive coastal environments and resilient coastal communities
Additionally, freshwater inflow, climate change, and pollution has impacted benthic ecosystems in coastal waters which can be an overall indicator of habitat health. Our research will assess sediment quality and bay health to determine the exact causes of water quality decline as benthic diversity is often an indicator of ecological response to change.