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1 June 2012 Ecological Aspects of Coastal Sediment Management in the Gulf of Mexico
Denise J. Reed, Ann C. Hijuelos, Sarah M. Fearnley
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Water and sediment resource planning is a vital facet of natural resource management. There have been many ecologically disruptive consequences from conventional resource management plans. In the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) nearby communities depend on water and sediment resources both ecologically as well as economically. The value of these resources is determined by habitat structure and ongoing sediment dynamics. This article explores how human activities have changed sediment dynamics in relation to the ecology of the habitats present in the northern GOM. It further presents ideas to prevent future problems through sediment management plans that account for natural processes. The northern GOM contains several habitats that are affected by sediment/water resource management plans such as the shoreface (beaches and dunes), barrier islands, hardbottom (coral and oyster reefs), bays, marshes, and forested wetlands. Many common techniques for water/sediment resource management have been used in these areas such as dredging, hard structures (jetties, groins, sea walls, and breakwaters), dams, diversions, levees, and coastal development. The implications of these different management techniques can lead to extensive changes in coastal habitats. Dredging causes disturbances to both borrow and placement sites and can change natural community structure at both sites. The installation of hard structures can cause severe changes in habitat structure that can lead to losses of species diversity. The impacts of river management structures (dams, levees, and diversions) alter the delivery of sediment needed by coastal habitats for growth and sustainability. Anthropogenic development in coastal regions prevents those areas from maturing naturally. Because of the importance of sediments to the ecology of the northern GOM coast and its vulnerability to natural and anthropogenic disturbances, several recommendations are made for holistic future sediment management plans.

Denise J. Reed, Ann C. Hijuelos, and Sarah M. Fearnley "Ecological Aspects of Coastal Sediment Management in the Gulf of Mexico," Journal of Coastal Research 60(sp1), 51-65, (1 June 2012).
Received: 6 February 2012; Accepted: 19 April 2012; Published: 1 June 2012
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