ATHENS, Ga. -- Concern over the health of our oceans has grown, in the past two decades, from worry to alarm. Coastal waters are crucial links in the food chain of the seas, and numerous disasters, many of them man-made, have threatened these waters.
A new mathematical model, coupling both physical and biological effects, could be a crucial step in predicting the health of near-shore ocean environments where rivers enter the sea. The model, which shows the dramatic importance of winds to the health of these ecosystems, could be useful in preventing the destruction of such areas as rich fishing banks.
"The key is learning how to identify, quantify and qualify which processes are at work in an ecosystem," said Dr. Changsheng Chen, a marine scientist from the University of Georgia. "In the past, we had scientists studying the physical effects and others looking at the biological effects, but they weren't talking to each other. We must understand how the two systems work together."
A new study using a coupled biological and physical model was recently published in the Journal of Marine Research. Along with Chen, others in the study were his collaborator, Denis Wiesenburg of the University of Southern Mississippi, and Chen's research associate from UGA, Liusen Xie. Their work was supported by a grant from the Office of Naval Research.
Chen's study focused on the Louisiana-Texas continental shelf in the Gulf
of Mexico, an
area of well-known biological activity. This shelf begins at a 20-meter depth
off the coast of
Louisiana and Texas and gradually increases to 200 meters at the shelf break and
drops to 500 meters at the outer edge of a slope. Researchers know from direct
most of the biological activity is closely tied to the seasonal discharge of
from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River systems at the coast, the upwelling
of water at the
shelf break and local wind and tida
Contact: Changsheng Chen
University of Georgia