Waterfowl Seeking Submerged Aquatic Vegetation
Waterfowl populations in the northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOM) rely extensively on plants that grow under the surface in shallow waters, know as submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), as a critical food resource in the winter season. SAV roots, shoots, and seeds provide high carbohydrate wildlife food that sustains valuable waterfowl species, including the American Wigeon, Canvasback, Ring-neck, and Red-headed ducks. Waterfowl and SAV populations are closely linked in the NGOM, and as the distribution of SAV shifts, the location and amount of waterfowl populations will similarly shift. To fully understand how climate change can affect waterfowl populations in the NGOM, South Central CSC supported research how SAV habitat may change as salinity regimes, water levels, and land configuration are altered as sea levels rise. Identifying potential changes in SAV in the NGOM will help to conserve critical waterfowl habitat as sea-level rise impacts the coastal landscape.