Hydrologic Initiative in Coastal Mississippi and Alabama: MX974333
The Grand Bay conservation area spans portions of south Mobile County, Alabama and southeastern Jackson County, Mississippi. This 150,000 acre conservation area is defined by the Escatawpa River and Bangs Lake marsh on the west, Interstate 10 and Fowl River on the north, Mobile Bay on the east and Gulf Islands off Mississippi Sound on the south. This conservation area also includes the Mississippi Sound estuary. Bayou LaBatre, Alabama is the only incorporated community within this area, but urban sprawl from Mobile and Pascagoula is placing pressure on Grand Bay’s remaining natural areas. This pressure is the result of population growth and suburban sprawl, and is having a profound negative affect on the area’s natural communities.
The Grand Bay conservation area includes one of the largest unfragmented stretches of wet pine savanna in the southeastern United States. Only three percent of the original pine savannas remain along the Gulf coast terrace, which stretches from near the Mississippi River to the Apalachicola River in Florida.
The primary stresses impacting the coastal habitats and the significant conservation targets at Grand Bay, as identified in the site conservation plan include: habitat loss due to residential construction, fire suppression, exotic/invasive species, hydrologic alterations and water quality degradation.
While the impacts of water quality and altered hydrology are evident across the coastal landscape, specific data at Grand Bay are generally lacking. The coastal estuaries and the adjacent pine savanna habitats are water-driven systems. However, we know little of the contributions to these critical habitats from nearby shallow ground and surface waters originating within the watershed.
The major objectives of this project were to: 1) broaden the knowledge base/understanding of coastal hydrology in uplands and wetlands near Grand Bay; 2) initiate planning for a wetland restoration construction project along the CSX Railroad at the Mississippi/Alabama state line; and 3) design and initiate hydrologic monitoring in conjunction with the restoration project. This project is intended to gain a broader understanding of the complex nature of water movement in Grand Bay, so that TNC and its partners can better develop effective conservation initiatives.