Campus News

Georgia Sea Grant to help monitor drought impacts

Staff from UGA’s Georgia Sea Grant are working with state resource managers and coastal scientists from diverse institutions to coordinate a response to potential drought impacts along the Georgia coast.

Despite the recent rain, the National Drought Mitigation Center reported Oct. 13 that the majority of the state remains in extreme drought. Many of Georgia’s rivers and streams also are seeing record low flows. The Georgia Forestry Commission has given much of the state a fire danger rating of high to extreme.

The dry conditions can ­dramatically affect Georgia’s coastline, and that’s why the group is developing a monitoring plan. Its goals are to identify where marsh dieback might be occurring, whether the lack of rain and exceptionally low river flow are distressing vulnerable populations of coastal plants and animals and how to track other prospective drought effects on the coast.

The research is being headed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, Georgia Sea Grant, UGA, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Sapelo National Estuarine Research Reserve, ­Savannah State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia Southern University.

forward, the National Weather Service predicts a strengthening La Niña weather pattern will remain throughout the winter. Drought and low river flow may continue for another six to nine months.

“The drought is as severe now as it was in 2001 and 2002 in terms of river flow to the coast,” said Charles Hopkinson, director of Georgia Sea Grant and professor of marine sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “If it persists for another half year, we may quite well see estuarine ecosystem conditions begin to deteriorate.”

The DNR-CRD and Georgia Sea Grant have a long history of working together in response to coastal crises.

DNR-CRD is the state agency entrusted to manage Georgia’s coastal marshes, beaches, waters and marine fisheries resources. Georgia Sea Grant supports research, education and outreach facilitating a balanced approach to land use, economic development and ecosystem health on the coast.