Comments on NPRB Draft Science Plan – Chapter 3

The intent of Chapter 3 is to provide a blueprint outlining the types of research the NPRB will fund. It is critical that a clear directive be provided and highlighted early and often. As noted in the Science Plan and in the NRC’s Elements report, the intent of the NPRB is to fund ecosystem-oriented research, that is, research that crosses disciplines and emphasizes interactions and fluxes. Section 3.9 (Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs) clearly outlines this approach to research. Given its importance, its placement at the end of this chapter is puzzling. Sections 3.2 through 3.8 present a trophic level view of ecosystems and when presented in this manner tend to further encourage isolated approaches to research along single-discipline lines. For this reason, the committee recommends a major reorganization of Chapter 3 (see the recommendations below for details). The trophic level summaries are best positioned in Chapter 2 along with the background material on atmospheric and oceanographic features of large marine ecosystems.

The NPRB should consider communicating and coordinating with the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) (http://lternet.edu/). The LTER network was established in 1980 to support research on long-term ecological phenomena in the United States. There are 26 sites representing diverse ecosystems and research thrusts, and the network strives to promote synthesis and comparative research, and thus should be an important information source to the NPRB as it matures. They may be willing to share information on data management, archiving, and program coordination. The North Pacific logically organizes into three LTER-like regions: the Bering Sea/Aleutians, Gulf of Alaska and Arctic Ocean.

To maximize the return on its investment, the NPRB will need to establish a geographic focus for its research activities in any given period of time, and commit a majority of its annual funding to research in that region. This kind of commitment of significant time and funds is needed to build a body of knowledge. The Science Plan itself does not need to specify geographic focus areas (beyond those broadly defined in the Mission Statement) because they are likely to change over the life of the plan.

The committee recommends that the NPRB divide its annual research funds (i.e., funds remaining after program administration, data management, and outreach) into three categories:



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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board Comments on NPRB Draft Science Plan – Chapter 3 The intent of Chapter 3 is to provide a blueprint outlining the types of research the NPRB will fund. It is critical that a clear directive be provided and highlighted early and often. As noted in the Science Plan and in the NRC’s Elements report, the intent of the NPRB is to fund ecosystem-oriented research, that is, research that crosses disciplines and emphasizes interactions and fluxes. Section 3.9 (Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs) clearly outlines this approach to research. Given its importance, its placement at the end of this chapter is puzzling. Sections 3.2 through 3.8 present a trophic level view of ecosystems and when presented in this manner tend to further encourage isolated approaches to research along single-discipline lines. For this reason, the committee recommends a major reorganization of Chapter 3 (see the recommendations below for details). The trophic level summaries are best positioned in Chapter 2 along with the background material on atmospheric and oceanographic features of large marine ecosystems. The NPRB should consider communicating and coordinating with the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) (http://lternet.edu/). The LTER network was established in 1980 to support research on long-term ecological phenomena in the United States. There are 26 sites representing diverse ecosystems and research thrusts, and the network strives to promote synthesis and comparative research, and thus should be an important information source to the NPRB as it matures. They may be willing to share information on data management, archiving, and program coordination. The North Pacific logically organizes into three LTER-like regions: the Bering Sea/Aleutians, Gulf of Alaska and Arctic Ocean. To maximize the return on its investment, the NPRB will need to establish a geographic focus for its research activities in any given period of time, and commit a majority of its annual funding to research in that region. This kind of commitment of significant time and funds is needed to build a body of knowledge. The Science Plan itself does not need to specify geographic focus areas (beyond those broadly defined in the Mission Statement) because they are likely to change over the life of the plan. The committee recommends that the NPRB divide its annual research funds (i.e., funds remaining after program administration, data management, and outreach) into three categories:

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board Category 1 includes a relatively stable annual amount that funds one or more long-term monitoring projects. Category 2 includes funding for Integrated Ecosystem Research Projects conducted in the identified geographic focus research areas. Category 3 includes support for small-scale, short-term process studies and/or specific research projects on individual questions of interest. An important question is how funds will be allocated among these three categories. The committee understands that the NPRB needs flexibility to set its own direction and meet changing needs, so we do not recommend set percentages. However, the committee does believe that category three – which is where most studies funded during the first three years of NPRB operation fall – is likely to be reduced over time as the IERPs develop and the Science Plan begins to have greater effect in setting research directions. Indeed, proportionately more funding will shift to category 2 projects, so that NPRB becomes an integrated approach to address interdisciplinary issues in a particular large marine ecosystem, from basic research on the regional environment, through ecosystem dynamics, to guidance relevant to overall ecosystem management and fisheries management in particular. Given the limited resources, the committee recommends that high priority be given to the development and use of biophysical/ecosystem models of increasing complexity to focus research efforts and to synthesize observations from long term monitoring projects and from other historical data when it is developed. One of the ultimate goals of an Integrated Ecosystem Research Project should be the prediction of future ecosystem states in response to natural variability and human activities. Another important goal would be the determination of the limits of ecosystem predictability, which would be useful to resource managers and decision makers. This approach will allow comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem as a whole and its response to natural and human-induced changes, which can then be used to improve management. The committee suggests that the NPRB verify the information regarding walleye pollock on page 94, line 33 of the draft because the committee believes the statement is incorrect (see Shuntov et al. 1993; Bakkala et al. 1986; Wolotira et al. 1977). The committee commends the NPRB’s intent to use retrospective data to extend time lines backward, and suggest that data in other languages may be useful to the NPRB’s goals. The Committee was satisfied with the section relating to economic and social research (Human Dimensions, Section 3.7) and feels that these studies have been appropriately weighted. RECOMMENDATIONS: Reorganize Chapter 3 within the following outline: 3.1 Introduction 3.2 Integrated Ecosystem Research Programs 3.3 Long Term Monitoring Programs 3.4 Short-term Process Studies 3.5 Research Tools 3.5.1 Modeling 3.5.2 Short-term Process Studies

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Final Comments on the Science Plan for the North Pacific Research Board 3.5.3 Retrospective Studies 3.5.4 Ecosystem Indicators At the end of Introduction (3.1), define and discuss the benefits of three categories of research (i.e., integrated ecological research programs, long-term studies, and short-term focused studies). Consider communicating and coordinating with the Long Term Ecological Research Network and to learn from its experience. Edit line 21 on page 53 as follows: “…based on interdisciplinary cooperation, as a means of addressing pressing fisheries management needs …”