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News & Notes – Spring/Summer 2013
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Climate Change and Extreme Weather
VOLUME 27, NUMBER 3, SPRING/SUMMER 2013             

Climate Change and Extreme Weather
By John H. Tibbetts                                                                       back to main story  

Scientific records to illuminate food chain

Two of the South Carolina coast’s finest scientific records could illuminate complex relationships among tiny but ecologically important creatures—oyster and goby larvae—in estuaries as global climate changes. 

Goby larvae inhabit the water column of tidal creeks and eat oyster larvae, selecting them from other plankton. In turn, recreationally important species such as red drum and flounder consume gobies and other small fishes. 

Now Sea Grant scientists are studying two data sets taken over more than 30 years from the North Inlet estuary in Georgetown County. The researchers are investigating how increasing water temperature has affected the reproduction, survival, and interactions among oysters and gobies and what impacts these changes might have on the estuary’s food chain.

“We’re interested in how or if the dynamics among oysters and gobies have changed, whether for good or for bad,” says Juliana Harding, a marine biologist at Coastal Carolina University.

Worldwide, many natural communities are being altered as the climate changes. For instance, some prey species are becoming available at different times from their historical predators.

Harding is collaborating with Dennis Allen, director of USC’s Baruch Marine Field Laboratory (BMFL). In North Inlet, Allen and his colleagues have measured winter water temperatures, which indicate an increase of 1.7°C (3.1°F) from 1979-2012, a very rapid warming over such a brief period. 

Since 1981, BMFL scientists have also collected zooplankton from the water column. Every two weeks, they have taken samples at the same location, the same stage of the tide, and the same time of day. Larval gobies are one of the more plentiful animals in those collections from May through September each year.

Now, with these two important data sets—winter water temperature and zooplankton abundance—scientists are studying whether the relative timing of goby and oyster larvae in the water column has changed and, if so, what that might mean for both populations. If winter water temperatures increase, will there be a mismatch between predators and the availability of their prey?

One interesting observation from the long-term record at North Inlet is that gobies are hatching later in the spring than expected, when water temperature is warmer. Potential long-term changes in the seasonal availability of oyster larvae are being evaluated using the archived collections.

Ongoing feeding experiments in the laboratory are examining goby larvae consumption of oyster larvae versus other possible planktonic prey. These experiments will provide new insights into the patterns, rates, and mechanisms of changes for these populations and habitats as water temperature continues to warm.      

Changes between these two ecologically important species could have ripple effects on other ecosystem relationships, and thus have an impact on estuarine food webs in South Carolina’s tidal creeks, salt marshes, and bays.

Coastal Heritage wins awards

Coastal Heritage recently won four prestigious awards. It won an Award of Merit in the 2012-13 International Summit Awards in the Society for Technical Communication competition. Coastal Heritage previously won 
a Distinguished Award at the chapter level.

Coastal Heritage also won 2nd place in the National Association of Government Communicators 2013 Blue Pencil/Gold Screen competition in the writer’s portfolio division. This annual international awards program recognizes superior government communication products and those who produce them.

Another national competition sponsored by APEX in 2012 gave Coastal Heritage an Award of Excellence in the magazines and journals category. Current and back issues of Coastal Heritage are available on the Consortium’s website at

Stormwater ordinance adopted

Jasper County was the recipient of a $5,000 award from the Consortium’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative to support the county’s stormwater management program.

The grant, which required an equal amount in match funding, enabled the county to develop a manual of best management practices and adopt a stormwater ordinance to reduce impacts of future development. The manual and ordinance will ensure that stormwater quality and quantity are maintained at pre-development levels.

Jasper County is predominantly rural, but has experienced a 20% population increase from 2000 to 2010. Municipal staff recognized the need 
for sustainable growth and the importance of implementing a stormwater management program to address issues associated with development.

For more information about this initiative, contact the Consortium’s Coastal Communities Extension Specialist April Turner at (843) 953-2073 or To view other projects supported under the initiative, visit the Coastal Communities webpage at

2012 S.C. Environmental Awareness Award winner announced

Tom Kester, a retired partner from the global auditing firm of KPMG LLP, was named winner of the 2012 S.C. Environmental Awareness Award during a ceremony May 15 at Harbison State Forest in Columbia. Mr. Kester, who serves as chairman and treasurer of the not-for-profit Conestee Foundation, was recognized for his volunteer efforts as part of the Foundation to acquire an old mill lakebed and turn it into a wildlife refuge and nature park for public use.

Lake Conestee Nature Park (LCNP) in Greenville consists of over 400 acres, which includes the original mill lakebed and three historic farm properties adjacent to the lakebed. There are over 10 miles of trails built within the park and two outdoor learning centers. The creation of LCNP spurred local governments to restore an abandoned minor league baseball stadium to little league standards, and build four new little league baseball fields, creating a first class tournament site.

There have been over 15 Master’s and Ph.D. studies done at LCNP. LCNP currently has grants from 3M and Michelin to design and install four instructional trail loops within the park. In addition, LCNP has been the recipient of numerous Eagle Scout projects. More information about the LCNP and the Conestee Foundation 
is available at

The S.C. General Assembly established the S.C. Environmental Awareness Award in 1992. The award is now in its 20th year recognizing outstanding contributions made toward the protection, conservation, 
and improvement of South Carolina’s natural resources. The S.C. Environmental Awareness Award Committee includes appointees from each of the following natural resource agencies: S.C. Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, S.C. Forestry Commission, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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Last updated: 8/20/2013 10:34:05 AM
News & Notes – Spring/Summer 2013


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