Rebuilding our coastline is a high priority for The Nature Conservancy that requires a multi-state approach.
Learn what we are doing to lead and support these efforts.
In response, TNC is leading the implementation of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Coastal Streams Project along our shoreline. This project encompasses 9 streams across the three coastal counties. This past summer, TNC’s Mississippi Chapter hosted over 18 public listening sessions to address the needs of these coastal streams.
Beginning in 2005, the Mississippi Chapter of TNC has partnered with state and federal agencies, volunteers, and corporate sponsors to begin restoration of Mississippi Sound’s oyster reefs for the habitat and natural benefits they provide. By 2014, a total of 85 acres of submerged oyster reef restoration had been funded through 6 competitive grant awards. This has been a massive collaborative undertaking, spearheaded by TNC's staff leading the project's science and restoration effort.
TNC's Mississippi staff is also supporting the conservation and protection of seagrass beds along the Mississippi coast. Historical declines of the seagrass beds have been documented since around the 1960’s, with unprecedented losses in recent decades. In 2011, our Mississippi Chapter took on the task of mapping our coastal seagrass beds, working with the Gulf Coast Research Lab of the University of Southern Mississippi to get the job done. Our efforts included a public awareness campaign to educate boaters on the potential impacts of their activities, namely scarring from boat props.
But conserving our Gulf ecosystems is not quite enough to ensure acomprehensive approach to coastal management. The threat may come further inland, where pollution and erosion find their way into our coastal streams.
As we look ahead to 2016, we will be completing the Coastal Streams Initiative that will provide a framework for conservation these small streams that ultimately flow into Mississippi Sound. Additionally, we are planning a project, in partnership with the National Park Service, to research the current status of Diamondback terrapins Davis Bayou and Grand Bay. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-713-3355.
In 2010 the Mississippi Chapter initiated the creation of a Marine and Coastal Program. This program was started impart as a response to the Gulf oil spill, but also to consolidate ongoing TNC marine projects in Mississippi under the leadership of a single dedicated program team. As TNC nationally invested in the Gulf of Mexico, individual Gulf Coast TNC chapters also recognized the need for the restoration of declining coastal resources. Specifically in Mississippi, our program has aimed to conserve and restore key coastal ecosystems as well as address the underlining causes of decline. We have taken the approach to work at several different scales including; watershed, habitat, and species. In combination this allows us to support the Mission of TNC “to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends,” as well as work to promote species and habitat diversity.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, more than 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost globally. Oyster reefs act as our ocean’s nearshore infrastructure, aiding in coastline stabilization, filtration of water, and providing habitat for a wide variety of fish and invertebrates. In additional to providing food and supporting multiple fisheries, oyster reefs are three dimensional habitats that are the coral reefs of temperate climates.
© Audra Melton
© Mike Murphy
Today, TNC provides multiple opportunities for interested coastal stakeholders to develop Gulf Coast restoration efforts for Mississippi. One of these partners, The Corps Network, joined efforts to repair and revitalize the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal ecosystems by conducting stream assessments for TNC in the fall of 2014 and spring 2015. This provided useful data on stream condition while also exposing local youth to jobs in coastal restoration and environmental sciences.
Through The Corps Network, Corp members were trained to conduct assessments on stream conditions such as erosion, canopy cover, invasive species, and water quality. This information has been used to inform conservation planning of coastal streams. Dozens of young people have brought awareness of the importance of protecting the environment to their community. One of these aspiring conservationists is Brandon McLaurin, a native of Gulfport, recently received the Urban Forest Council 2015 Partnership Award for his work on the project.
"The coast has always been my sense of place; as a child, growing up, and as an adult. Whether it’s an open view of the horizon, the smell of a salt marsh, or the taste of freshly caught seafood, it connects me to friends, family, and memories. So when having to decide on a career to pursue, I chose to chase after those opportunities that would allow me to explore that which I enjoy while having a small part in its stewardship. Working for The Nature Conservancy has given me that opportunity, with countless experiences in Mississippi’s awesome coastal habitats."