Study Explores Impacts of Drought and Water Withdrawals on Downstream Ecosystems

  • 1 August 2012
Study Explores Impacts of Drought and Water Withdrawals on Downstream Ecosystems

Increases in the frequency, duration, and severity of regional drought pose major threats to the health and integrity of downstream ecosystems. During 2007-2008, the U.S. Southeast experienced one of the region's most severe droughts on record. Drought and water withdrawals in the upstream watershed led to decreased freshwater input to Apalachicola Bay, Florida, an estuary that is home to a diversity of commercially and ecologically important organisms.

Laura Petes of NOAA's Climate Program Office, along with her co-authors, published a study in the July 2012 issue of Ecology and Evolution on the impacts of reduced freshwater input on downstream estuarine oyster populations. The researchers found that oysters suffered significant disease-related mortality under high-salinity conditions associated with drought, particularly during the warm summer months. The study was conducted in the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, at the downstream end of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin in the U.S. Southeast.

The National Integrated Drought Information System is currently developing a regional drought early-warning system for the ACF Basin. The study's findings have important implications for this effort, as well as for sustainable watershed management in general.

The paper is available online.



Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA)

MISSION: The Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA) is a partnership between the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA Research) Climate Program Office, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Office of Science and Technology that supports targeted research to promote adaptation and resilience of the nation's valuable fisheries and fisheries-dependent communities in a changing climate. By bringing together NOAA scientists with many partners, CAFA addresses priority needs for information and tools identified in the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science StrategyRegional Action Plans, and other sources.  

ISSUE: Healthy fisheries are a significant component of the U.S. economy. Commercial and recreational marine fisheries generate over $200 billion in economic activity and support more than 1.8 million jobs annually (FEUS 2016). Fisheries also support working waterfronts and coastal communities, provide opportunities for commerce, are tied to rich cultures, and help meet the growing demand for seafood across the U.S. and the world.

Climate change is impacting fish stocks, fisheries, and fishing communities, and these impacts are expected to increase. Changing climate and ocean conditions (e.g. warming oceans, changing currents, coastal inundation, extreme events, etc.) can affect the abundance, distribution, and productivity of fish stocks that support economically important fisheries. Sustainable fisheries management requires an improved understanding of how climate, fishing, and other stressors interact to affect fish stocks (including their habitats and prey), fisheries and fishing-dependent communities.  

PROGRAM HISTORY: The CAFA Program was established by the NOAA Research Climate Program Office and the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in 2014 to advance understanding of climate‐related impacts on fish stocks, fisheries and fishing communities. The partnership originated through the former Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) Program and in 2021 was renamed the Climate and Fisheries Adaptation (CAFA) Program as part of the Climate Program Office Adaptation Sciences Program.

SPONSORS: Funding for the CAFA Program comes from the OAR Climate Program Office and the NMFS Office of Science and Technology, the Office of Sustainable Fisheries, and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 




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