Can Controlled Experiments Play a Role in Informing Nutrient Management Goals for Mississippi Alluvial Plain Water Bodies?

Author(s): Taylor, J.; Lizotte, R.

Field-derived stressor-response models are useful for establishing nutrient management goals that protect ecological integrity of regional water resources. However, these studies can be difficult to implement in large river floodplain regions with intensive agricultural for a variety of reasons including: general habitat limitation of lowland stream ecosystems; significant alteration of geomorphological and hydrologic regimes; and a lack of clearly defined nutrient gradients among sites due to widespread enrichment. Given the diverse potential confounding factors and challenges to deriving nutrient stressor– ecological response models within the Mississippi Delta, conducting field mesocosm experiments may provide additional empirical evidence to evaluate field observations and inform nutrient reduction goals. We will explore this option by first, briefly presenting examples from a nutrient stressor-response study conducted in Texas that demonstrates how controlled stream mesocosm studies can 1) confirm field-derived stressor-response relationships and 2) identify relationships difficult to see with field data due to confounding factors. Secondly, we will present results from field mesocosm studies that demonstrate heterotrophic and autotrophic responses to nutrient enrichment within Delta habitats. We will conclude by discussing how experimental mesocosm studies can be expanded and conducted to inform identification of nutrient management goals for water bodies within the region.

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