4
Evaluating Thematic Priorities and Cross-Theme Integration

This chapter evaluates the proposed research agenda within each of the six societal themes. The evaluation criteria used below are related to three of the tasks given to the committee:

  • The clarity and appropriateness of the thematic research priorities (Task 3a);

  • The balance among substantive research areas as well as research activities such as observations, modeling, and communication of results (Task 4b and 4c); and

  • The degree of success in linking and integrating research activities across the themes.

The draft plan identifies 21 research priorities (Table 4-1). The plan states that eight questions (Box 4-1) were used by the JSOST to guide the development of these priorities. From the narrative it is difficult to determine how the questions were applied to the six themes to produce the 21 priorities. For example, it is not clear whether the questions were weighted equally or some were given more consideration than others. There is also no information regarding the number of potential priorities that were screened by these questions prior to arriving at the final 21. In that sense, it is difficult to assess whether specific areas were unintentionally or intentionally omitted as part of the priority-setting exercise. Further elaboration on the use of the questions in the development of priorities would have been helpful in assessing them.



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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy 4 Evaluating Thematic Priorities and Cross-Theme Integration This chapter evaluates the proposed research agenda within each of the six societal themes. The evaluation criteria used below are related to three of the tasks given to the committee: The clarity and appropriateness of the thematic research priorities (Task 3a); The balance among substantive research areas as well as research activities such as observations, modeling, and communication of results (Task 4b and 4c); and The degree of success in linking and integrating research activities across the themes. The draft plan identifies 21 research priorities (Table 4-1). The plan states that eight questions (Box 4-1) were used by the JSOST to guide the development of these priorities. From the narrative it is difficult to determine how the questions were applied to the six themes to produce the 21 priorities. For example, it is not clear whether the questions were weighted equally or some were given more consideration than others. There is also no information regarding the number of potential priorities that were screened by these questions prior to arriving at the final 21. In that sense, it is difficult to assess whether specific areas were unintentionally or intentionally omitted as part of the priority-setting exercise. Further elaboration on the use of the questions in the development of priorities would have been helpful in assessing them.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy TABLE 4-1 Priorities Identified by the JSOSTa 1 Understand the status and trends of resource abundance and distribution through more accurate, timely and synoptic assessments 2 Understand interspecies and habitat-species relationships as a basis for forecasting resource stability and sustainability 3 Understand human use patterns that may influence resource stability and sustainability 4 Apply advanced technologies to enhance the benefits of various natural resources from the open ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes 5 Understand the initiation and evolution of hazard events and apply that understanding to improve forecasts of future hazard events 6 Understand the response of coastal and marine systems to natural hazards and apply that understanding to assessments of future vulnerability to natural hazards 7 Apply understanding to develop multihazard risk assessments and to support development of model, policies, and strategies for hazard mitigation 8 Understand the interactions between marine operations and the environment 9 Apply understanding of environmental factors to characterize and predict conditions in the maritime domain 10 Apply understanding of human behavior to develop the information and tools necessary to carry out effective, safe, and secure marine operations 11 Apply understanding of marine operations to enhance the marine transportation system 12 Understand ocean-climate interactions across regions 13 Understand the impact of climate variability and change on the ocean, including its biogeochemistry and ecosystems 14 Apply understanding of the ocean to help project future climate changes and their impacts 15 Understand and predict the impact of natural and anthropogenic processes that govern the overall level of ecosystem productivity 16 Apply understanding of ocean-related socioeconomic activities to assess the ability of marine ecosystems to provide essential goods and services

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy 17 Apply understanding of marine ecosystems to develop appropriate indicators and metrics for their sustainable and effective management 18 Understand, forecast, and reduce ocean-related risks to human health from pathogens, biotoxins, and chemical contaminants 19 Understand human health risks associated with the ocean and the potential benefits of ocean resources to human health 20 Understand how human use and valuation of ocean resources can be affected by ocean-borne human health threats and how human activities can influence these threats 21 Apply understanding of ocean ecosystems and biodiversity to develop products and biological models to enhance human well being a The priorities are numbered here in the order that they are presented in the ORPP only to simplify referencing in the text. The numbers do not imply ranking by either the committee or the JSOST. There are three primary concerns about the research priorities as they have been identified in the draft plan: The priorities that start with “understand” sound like goals (not research priorities). The priorities that start with “apply” sound more like activities. This terminology fails to communicate that there are priority research activities from which milestones could be developed. In addition, many of the priority statements are so all encompassing that they do not indicate areas of research that should take precedence. The wording of some research priorities suggests that they do not involve research but rather that they are activities or operations that have no clear research component (e.g., Priorities 11 and 16). The priorities do not convey the degree of difficulty or challenge in achieving them, making it difficult to realistically address the feasibility of and time frame for their likely success (Task 3b). In addition, the balance among substantive research areas, as well as research activities such as observations, modeling, and communication of results (Tasks 4b and 4c), is difficult to assess for some of the thematic priorities in the ORPP, in part because the balance among activities will

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy Box 4-1 Criteria Used to Identify Research Priorities The following questions were used to identify the most compelling research priorities for each theme, with the recognition that the prioritization criteria for one theme may not be equally applicable to another: Is the proposed research transformational (e.g., will the proposed research enable significant advances in insight and application, even with potentially high risk for its success; would success provide dramatic benefits for the nation)? Does the proposed research impact many societal theme areas? Does the research address high-priority needs of resource managers? Would the research provide understanding of high value to the broader scientific community? Will the research promote partnerships to expand the nation’s capabilities (e.g., contributions from other partners, including communities outside of ocean science, such as health science; unique timing of activities)? Does the research serve to contribute to or enhance the leadership of the United States in ocean science? Does the research contribute to a greater understanding of ocean issues at a global scale? Does the research address mandates of governing entities (federal agencies; state, tribal, and local governments)? actually depend on implementation of the priorities. However, it is also due to the difficulty in discerning from the plan what research will not be done as a result of the choice of research priorities. In places where it is possible to comment sensibly on issues of balance, the committee does so. The themes and their corresponding priorities would benefit from a stronger emphasis on several cross-cuts that underlie them. Integrated Assessments. The development of integrated assessment depends on information both from a comprehensive observing system and from models. In the context of physical climate variability, this is called state estimation. Such analyses are extremely useful in their own right, and they are essential to provide initial conditions for forecasts. Such baselines are essential for gauging ecosystem health trends as well. However,

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy integrated assessments are only the first step in advancing the science and modeling capabilities. Within each theme, it would be very useful to articulate what the impediments are to generating high-quality integrated assessments. Basic Research. The important role of basic research is not clearly addressed. Many of the research priorities identify a need for “understanding,” and it would be helpful—and potentially inspiring—if some needed process studies were identified in the plan that could be conducted during the next decade. These inclusions could illustrate linkages among the priorities and the cross-cutting role of broad-ranging fundamental research as suggested in Chapter 3. Predictive Models. The complexity and difficulty of developing skillful integrated predictive models for use by managers and policy makers is not communicated in the descriptions provided in the “Necessary Tools” subsections within each theme and by relegating the “Opportunities for Progress” to the back of the document. Within the themes, there are very different scientific challenges and levels of difficulty in approaching this cross-cutting objective. For example, ocean circulation and climate models have been used for operational prediction for some time, albeit with varying degrees of success, while the development of ecosystem models with sufficient predictive capacity to support ecosystem-based management is much less advanced. A number of models are designed to contribute to ecosystem-based management, ranging from food web models to spatially explicit models of marine reserve design. However, there is much room for improvement of models and modeling approaches, and many models have yet to be rigorously tested against field data and experiments. In each theme, it would be very useful to articulate what the next major step is toward building a model with sufficient predictive skill to be of value to decision makers and researchers. In addition to the cross-cuts, there are clear linkages among thematic areas (Figure 4-1). Most of the thematic discussions address at least some issues that are linked to other themes. It would be helpful to enhance this discussion by taking a more consistent approach across the themes that (1) carefully considers the interfaces between themes that intersect the key problems identified in the document and (2) states the research need-

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy FIGURE 4-1 Visualizing the linkages among the themes. The figure illustrates how one theme may influence another (indicated by the direction of the arrows). Some themes are principally drivers—they describe processes that affect other societal themes; other themes are primarily receivers—they are affected by, but have few impacts on, other themes. For example, climate change is the fundamental driver in the system (arrows point outward). However, human health does not have a direct impact on the other themes but is instead affected by most of the themes (i.e., almost all arrows point toward it). ed and the mechanisms to be employed to foster collaborative research in those areas. A graphic that helps the reader to visualize the connections between thematic areas would also be useful.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy RECOMMENDATION: Linkages among the themes should be clearly and consistently delineated in the supporting text for the research priorities. This could be accomplished through a simple statement that a given research priority will also forward the goals of other (specified) themes. This recommendation is echoed in the following discussion of and recommendations for specific thematic areas. STEWARDSHIP OF OUR NATURAL AND CULTURAL OCEAN RESOURCES The following are the research priorities under this theme: Understand the status and trends of resource abundance and distribution through more accurate, timely, and synoptic assessments. Understand interspecies and habitat-species relationships as a basis for forecasting resource stability and sustainability. Understand human use patterns that may influence resource stability and sustainability. Apply advanced technologies to enhance the benefits of various natural resources from the open ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. This theme encompasses stewardship of all aspects of the oceans and Great Lakes that represent commodities that fulfill essential human needs (e.g., goods and services such as food and transportation) or values (e.g., recreation, tourism, preservation of culture). While this makes sense from the viewpoint of categorizing human dependence on the ocean, it suffers as a logical organizing principle for research priorities. Too many disparate types of resources that have little to do with one another in terms of the science needed to advance knowledge are grouped under this one heading. For example, the principles of assessing and managing living renewable resources are completely different from those involving mining of nonrenewable, nonliving mineral resources of finite quantity, and different from protecting cultural artifacts. In an effort to fold all natural and cultural resources under one tent, the four research priorities

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy embedded in this theme—inventory, model, incorporate human dimensions, and apply technology—are very diffuse. Although the plan discusses the need for taking an ecosystem-based approach, the committee suggests that the plan go one step further and use ecosystem-based management as the unifying concept to connect the numerous human uses of the ocean and research priorities. The interactive and cumulative effects of the many different sectors of our economy (e.g., energy, food, tourism, transportation) that draw resources from the ocean must be viewed in a holistic manner using an ecosystem-based approach. Underscoring the overriding necessity to think in terms of the ecosystem when evaluating the effects of human activities could also be accomplished by drawing stronger connections between this theme and the one on ecosystem health. The committee also believes that the rationale fails to capture a sense of the imperiled status of our ocean resources, the changes in human behavior necessary to achieve sustainability for renewable resources, and the difficulty of the science needed to solve these problems. This is especially evident with respect to the stated research priorities as applied to living resources. For example, the approaches employed to manage living resources have often had limited success. Recent widespread coverage in the public media has highlighted these failures and the serious declines in living resources and the biodiversity of the ocean. The plan misses an opportunity to address public concern about the plight of our oceans as the motivation behind the research priorities. The committee also found it difficult to identify those resources and research priorities that the report classifies as cultural. The confusion stems from differences in how the plan discusses these resources as illustrated in the statements, “the ocean preserves a record of the past in the form of drowned cultural sites,” (JSOST, 2006b, p. 21, lines 6-7) and “relict prehistoric landscapes, shipwrecks, and historic and living waterfronts along the nation’s coasts and Great Lakes all contribute to the national cultural heritage,” (JSOST, 2006b, p.21, lines 29-31). The latter reference includes marine-dependent communities (e.g., fishing communities) but the former references only archaeological sites such as shipwrecks. The committee recommends clarifying the definition along with highlighting the research priorities that relate to these resources. As it stands, the title of this theme implies that natural and cultural resources are of equal importance in terms of research priorities, yet none of the proposed priorities deal directly with cultural resources.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy Clarity and Appropriateness of the Priorities The priorities themselves are good and need only minor adjustments. One suggested adjustment is that the priorities provide a better sense of the difficulties and challenges inherent in the natural and social sciences. For example, the draft plan does not mention the changing conceptual frameworks and paradigms that concern the theory of resource exploitation of living resources. On the natural science side of the ledger, problems such as loss of biodiversity, fishing down food webs, shifting baselines, metapopulation dynamics and connectivity across populations and ecosystems, genetic alterations of populations and communities, and the failure of depleted populations to rebound are not discussed in this theme. Challenges in the human and governance dimension that might be highlighted are the role for different nuances of rights-based approaches (NRC, 1999c); managing recreational fisheries (Coleman et al., 2004; NRC, 2006a); understanding the socioeconomic trade-offs inherent in ecosystem-based management especially with respect to marine mammals, sea birds, and harvested marine species; decision making under uncertainty; and management issues at the land-sea boundary. Finally, as the plan mentions, many difficult questions that reside at the interface of natural and social science relate to the nature of the coupling and the strength of the feedbacks. The plan correctly highlights several technological issues that must be solved in the coming decade (i.e., the need to develop ocean aquaculture in an ecologically sustainable manner, the problem of species [mammals] sensitive to acoustic emissions, the need for bycatch reduction, and the need for enhanced mapping of continental shelf waters). These are important problems that research and/or technology can address, but they represent only a small subset of the challenges that are faced in managing renewable resources in a sustainable fashion. Balance of Research Areas and Activities The balance among research areas and activities is appropriate. The plan proposes to improve empirical data relative to resource status, build better models, provide better socioeconomic information, and develop new technology for a variety of purposes. The committee agrees that advances on all these fronts are appropriate and necessary goals. The priorities in this theme have an extremely strong intersection with the priorities in “Improving Ecosystem Health” (see recommen-

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy dations below), as the plan discusses. The plan misses the opportunity to point out other important linkages, including the impact of climate change and natural hazards on living resources and the connection between resource exploitation and marine operations. RECOMMENDATION: This theme should further emphasize the necessity of understanding all human impacts, not just fishing, and the feedbacks and cumulative impacts among them as the means of moving ocean governance to an ecosystem-based approach. Scientific consensus has already been reached regarding the need to use ecosystem-based approaches to managing living resources. To better manage the system and all of its parts, all human impacts need to be viewed through this holistic lens. Ecosystem-based thinking is the glue that can hold the numerous pieces of this theme together. Stronger ties to the theme of ecosystem health should also be drawn. RECOMMENDATION: A more compelling case should be made for these extremely important research priorities based on the greater scientific and public awareness of the decline in living resources and biodiversity. The report is missing an opportunity to capitalize on growing public concern over the plight of the oceans. RECOMMENDATION: Research priorities for cultural resources should be identified, or this topic should be removed from the theme. Cultural resources are certainly valued by society and should be protected; is there a compelling research priority that must be accomplished to do so? INCREASING RESILIENCE TO NATURAL HAZARDS The research priorities under this theme are as follows:

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy Understand the initiation and evolution of hazard events and apply that understanding to improve forecasts of future hazard events. Understand the response of coastal and marine systems to natural hazards and apply that understanding to assessments of future vulnerability to natural hazards. Apply understanding to develop multihazard risk assessments and to support development of models, policies, and strategies for hazard mitigation. This theme addresses societal risks and vulnerability to coastal and marine hazards such as hurricanes and tsunamis. Emphasis is on understanding economic, environmental, social, and public health impacts from hazards, assessing and reducing risks and vulnerability, and making better forecasts of hazards. Research under this theme would support assessment and reduction of risk; the saving of lives and property; and the improvement of mitigation, response, and recovery operations. Clarity and Appropriateness of the Priorities These priorities are appropriate and address significant challenges. While the stated priorities cover many aspects of coastal and marine hazards research, the explanation of the priorities would benefit from some additional detail. For example, under Priority 6, the discussion of secondary processes could be expanded to include the study of erosion and sediment transport, such as research to better understand erosion processes and sediment transfer; source, movement, volume, quality, and disposal engineering models; regional sediment budgets; impacts of human intervention (e.g., piers, groins); and fragmented, uncoordinated management. This would also identify an area of research addressing the needs of the Great Lakes, which are conspicuously absent. The need for more process research to understand the nonlinear complexity of coastal inundation forcing, coastal erosion and sediment transport, and the health of coastal ecosystems has been highlighted in other reports, notably the USCOP report, but it is absent from the draft ORPP. This priority might also include research emphasizing the importance (as learned from the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe) of preserving and enhancing natural defenses such as barrier beaches and wetlands and, in many cases, adopting a strategy that emphasizes “nature first—engineered works second.” In Priority 7, the discussion might include identification of

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy given the long lead times (up to a decade) required to identify user needs and develop instrument capabilities, it is essential to have a prioritized science mission strategy based on compelling scientific issues and societal needs and opportunities … [the current] process is completely inadequate to meet established needs of Earth science or society. (NRC, 2005) The report specifically mentions the loss of the wide-swath ocean altimeter due to budget shortfalls. The altimeter would have enabled measurement of phenomena needed to improve ocean circulation models and to support marine transportation and fisheries research and forecasts. The requirement for high-resolution coupled climate models is clear to climate scientists but could be made more compelling in the plan if it were related to the requirements of other themes. Linkages of this theme with the “Enhancing Human Health” and “Improving Ecosystem Health” themes would be useful in this regard. The lack of a connection with the “Enabling Marine Operations” and “Stewardship of Our Natural and Cultural Ocean Resources” themes is also apparent. The importance of the combined effects of rising sea levels with storm surges and high-wave episodes represents an important linkage between this theme and the “Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards” theme that could be discussed. The required synergy between observations and models is not adequately addressed within the research priorities. Improving model parameterizations of unresolved processes is an essential and fundamental research requirement, while improving methods for data assimilation into models is a compelling applied research requirement. There is a hint of these elements in the “Opportunities for Progress” discussion (“Developing the Tools” subsection), but they need to be explicitly and clearly recognized within the research priorities. RECOMMENDATION: Linkages with other themes should be improved. The linkages with “Enhancing Human Health” and with “Improving Ecosystem Health” are provided in the rationale. Connections with “Enabling Marine Operations” are not made here, although some are identified within that theme. There are currently no apparent connections made with the “Stewardship of Our Natural and Cultural Ocean Resources” theme.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy RECOMMENDATION: Priorities 12 and 14 should include discussions of sea level that explicitly recognize the importance of multiple, compounded sources of variability and change. For example, climate-related changes in surface wave characteristics need to be understood. The superposition of storm surges and high-wave episodes on rising sea levels represents an important linkage between this theme and the “Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards” and “Enabling Marine Operations” themes. This relationship between short time-scale variability and long-term change is clearly identified in the former theme. The larger challenge of understanding the interaction of processes across time and space scales could be articulated more clearly in Priority 12. IMPROVING ECOSYSTEM HEALTH The following research priorities are listed under this theme: Understand and predict the impact of natural and anthropogenic processes that govern the overall level of ecosystem productivity. Apply understanding of ocean-related socioeconomic activities to assess the ability of marine ecosystems to provide essential goods and services. Apply understanding of marine ecosystems to develop appropriate indicators and metrics for their sustainable and effective management. This theme correctly addresses and acknowledges the complexity and importance of marine ecosystems and suggests that there is much to be learned about the structure, function, and vulnerability of these systems. However, there are still some significant knowledge gaps that the plan misses, including factors that control ecosystem stability and productivity; processes acting across interfaces (e.g., sea surface and bottom); linkages among ecosystem types; and ultimately, the relationship between marine ecosystems and the larger ocean-earth-atmosphere system. Another important omission is a definition of what constitutes a healthy ecosystem. The committee suggests that the plan would benefit from such a clarification.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy Clarity and Appropriateness of the Priorities Priority 15 emphasizes the incorporation of existing physical, chemical, and biological knowledge across different temporal and spatial scales to address ecosystem questions. However, existing information will not be sufficient to support the development of the dispersal models or the next generation of trophic models called for under this priority. Model development will require additional process studies to improve ecosystem forecasting. This could be made explicit and clearer in the text. The goal for this priority is to predict the impact of processes, natural and anthropogenic, that govern ecosystem productivity. In this context, the term “productivity” appears to be the sole indicator of ecosystem health. Productivity is one dimension of ecosystem health. However, it alone is a poor metric because marine systems can maintain stable levels of secondary production, set by nutrient loadings and physical conditions (NRC, 2000b; Nixon and Buckley, 2002), even when severely perturbed by human activities. One example is seen in coastal ecosystems that receive high levels of anthropogenic nutrient input. Productivity in such systems is often elevated, showing, for example, highly productive fisheries and high fisheries landings, (e.g., Nixon and Buckley, 2002; Figure 4-2), but they also often experience the negative symptoms of eutrophication such as seasonal hypoxia. This example illustrates the difficulty of trying to use a single metric such as productivity to define ecosystem health. It also highlights the need for a clear definition of ecosystem health. Other important system characteristics to consider include structure, function, and complexity. As articulated in the rationale, there is a critical need to develop and enhance our understanding of the limits to system resilience, threshold responses, and movement and transport between and through systems. Priority 15, however, only calls for the incorporation of existing knowledge (e.g., physical, chemical, biological) across different temporal and spatial scales to address ecosystem questions and does not address these gaps. Ecosystems exhibit a nonlinear complexity that is relevant to the determination of a system’s intrinsic predictability. Much of this complexity is still a black box, and a better delineation of the potentially predictable versus generally unpredictable components will be necessary to enhance ecosystem forecasting skill. Monitoring to establish baselines for forecasts and predictions is necessary to understand the relationships between various ecosystem components and can help to inform and parameterize the models that will be used for ecosystem-based management. However, the emphasis on monitoring should not come at

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy FIGURE 4-2 Cross-system comparisons indicate that primary production increases with nitrogen loading and that fisheries landings are positively related to primary production. As a result, marine systems receiving the highest levels of anthropogenic nutrient loadings also tend to have the highest fisheries landings even if they also experience negative effects of nutrient enrichment such as algal blooms, hypoxia, and loss of aquatic macrophytes. SOURCE: Nixon and Buckley, 2002; courtesy of the Estuarine Research Federation. the expense of process-oriented studies. Both approaches are needed, and the plan could seek ways to more clearly integrate the approaches that evaluate ecosystem status via continuous monitoring (data collection) with approaches that are process oriented and/or hypothesis driven. Priority 16 seems to suggest that modeling of social and economic factors will predict the impact of human society on marine ecosystems, but not enough is known about the ecological dynamics and system vulnerabilities such as trophic interactions, species-habitat functionalities, and thresholds to build such models. The supporting text acknowledges the need for better models and more information, but this is not clear from the wording of the priority statement.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy The supporting text for Priority 16 calls for new approaches to evaluate consumptive and nonconsumptive use of resources and the need to take into consideration the rights of future generations. In addition to developing new approaches, there is a need to collect finer-scale spatial and temporal data on consumptive and nonconsumptive use of ocean resources. The statement on the rights of future generations does not describe a research question. However, a clearer statement on the need for better cost-benefit approaches and discounting procedures to assess the true value of sustainable management practices would be appropriate. Priority 17 calls for the development of approaches to identify one or more indicators that can be used to assess the health of a given ecosystem. When tightly linked to the scientific results supporting Priorities 15 and 16, indicators can provide an important source of information on the trends and future threats to an ecosystem. However, this section is particularly vague and will benefit from a clearer definition of what is needed to define a healthy ecosystem. Balance of Research Areas and Activities There is a strong emphasis on observations under this theme, which is appropriate for studies that are relevant to ecosystem health and, ultimately, ecosystem-based management. There is less emphasis on the requirements for developing effective, reliable ecosystem models for assessment, prediction, and management, although these requirements are listed. As noted earlier in this section of the committee’s report, the emphasis on monitoring could be balanced with discussion of needed process studies. Process studies are necessary to identify mechanisms that underlie patterns captured in observational studies and are essential for model development. This is a cross-cutting issue could be effectively presented if discussed as a call-out box before the individual priorities. The acquisition of large data sets is acknowledged as clearly important for studies that are relevant to ecosystem health and ultimately ecosystem-based management. However, the need for integrating this information (scientific and socioeconomic) into broadly available databases is not addressed in the plan. Improved sensors and instrumentation generate data at ever finer temporal and spatial scales, allowing important ecological questions to be addressed at scales not previously approachable. Improvements in computational power and increasing sophistication of data assimilation and modeling techniques provide the

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy ability to utilize these large data sets, particularly for research that combines biological and physical processes. RECOMMENDATION: The plan should seek ways to more clearly integrate the approaches that evaluate ecosystem status via continuous monitoring (data collection) with approaches that are process oriented and/or hypothesis driven. RECOMMENDATION: Priority 16 should be revised as follows: “Develop socioeconomic models for application to ocean and coastal issues to help evaluate the impact of multiple human uses on marine ecosystems.” RECOMMENDATION: A broader range of ecosystem responses (not just productivity) should be considered as measures of ecosystem health. Priority 15 would be improved by substituting wording such as the following: “Develop the capability to predict the impact of natural and anthropogenic processes on ecological systems.” A number of system characteristics, including organization, composition, complexity, and productivity, are important to consider both as measures of impact and as factors that ultimately influence the direction and magnitude of ecological responses. Particular attention should be paid to nonlinear dynamics, threshold responses, and properties that influence the ability of systems to resist or recover from natural and anthropogenic stressors. RECOMMENDATION: Additional emphasis should be placed on increasing knowledge and understanding of factors contributing to the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem health. There are large gaps in our understanding of how marine ecosystems are organized and function, and how the individual biotic, chemical, and physical components of marine systems respond to both natural and anthropogenic forcings, which are not addressed in the current plan. Information

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy should be translated into a form that is useful to resource managers and policy makers. ENHANCING HUMAN HEALTH The research priorities under this theme follow: Understand, forecast, and reduce ocean-related risks to human health from pathogens, biotoxins, and chemical contaminants. Understand human health risks associated with the ocean and the potential benefits of ocean resources to human health. Understand how human use and valuation of ocean resources can be affected by ocean-borne human health threats and how human activities can influence these threats. Apply understanding of ocean ecosystems and biodiversity to develop products and biological models to enhance human well-being. This theme addresses a broad array of human health issues that relate to the ocean. Both problems and opportunities are included. The major issues highlighted under this theme—pathogens, harmful algal blooms (HABs), contaminants, marine bioproducts, and biological models—are appropriate and capture the most important research topics. Pathogens, HABs, marine bioproducts, and biological models were highlighted in the 1999 NRC report From Monsoons to Microbes: Understanding the Ocean’s Role in Human Health (NRC, 1999a). The other topic included in that report—natural hazards—is included in another theme in the plan. The addition of contaminants to this theme is appropriate and important. In general, the justification for this theme is solid and should be easily understood by nonscientists. The theme rationale can be strengthened, however, by expanding beyond sickness and drugs to include the potential for major contributions to science in general. In addition, fact checking will be critical. The estimate of the number of individuals that become ill from shellfish in the United States seems much too high. The accuracy of the estimate needs to be checked, the causes of illness (e.g., seafood storage and handling versus illness related to HABs, pathogens, and contaminants within the marine environment) identified, and a citation provided for the number of individuals affected.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy Clarity and Appropriateness of the Priorities The four research priorities under the “Enhancing Human Health” theme capture a broad range of topics that are appropriate and will clearly advance science in this area. The research priorities for this theme include the most critical issues in the area of oceans and human health, identified at the Denver workshop and in From Monsoons to Microbes: Understanding the Ocean’s Role in Human Health (NRC, 1999a). The priorities would be strengthened, however, by increased consideration of the need for basic research, by clearer wording, and by more explicit description of important linkages to research priorities in other themes. Consistent inclusion of the need for basic research on the range of topics within each priority would emphasize the value of an increased knowledge base that could contribute to meeting societal needs. For example, Priority 21 could encourage research that provides improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the action of natural marine toxins and beneficial compounds, not just, as stated, the discovery, testing, and development of ocean bioproducts. Similarly, Priority 19 could encourage research to improve methodology and increase the accuracy and sophistication of epidemiological studies that the document recognizes as important to understanding and predicting effects of ocean processes on human health. The breadth of research recommended in the plan is also unnecessarily constrained by the choice of wording. For example, the statement “the use of marine species as mechanistic models for the study of diseases, toxicology and biochemical processes relevant to human health” can be altered so that potential contributions to other important fields such as genetics and neuroanatomy are not excluded. The scope of recommended research can be expanded by simply rewording the phrase to “the use of marine species as mechanistic models for a range of processes relevant to human health, including the study of diseases, toxicology, biochemistry, and other important processes.” An important problem with research priorities included in this theme is that the distinction between Priorities 18 and 19 is not clear. It appears that the document may be trying to distinguish between the need for underlying process studies (Priority 18) and quantification of risks and benefits (Priority 19). Clearer wording is necessary. The need for process studies to improve the understanding of important underlying mechanisms, for all highlighted topics could be more strongly emphasized, whether or not this was the intent in Priority 18 discussed above.

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy The wording in Priority 20 may also unnecessarily limit the scope of recommended research into the economic consequences of real and perceived threats to human health. A full understanding of how real and perceived threats to human health affect fisheries and tourism is not limited to cases in which fisheries or beaches are closed. Balance of Research Areas and Activities This theme includes an appropriate balance between substantive research areas, except for the uneven discussion of basic research among the four research priorities. A strength of the priorities is recognition of the multidisciplinary nature of research needed to advance this theme. The theme also recommends a mix of process studies, observations, and modeling. Not enough detail is provided in this brief section of the plan to assess the mix of these activities. Linkages to other themes could be made more explicit by using clearer wording to convey the intent of the document. For example, a statement such as “research is needed to better understand and predict the relationship between ecosystem health and the effects of oceans on human health” provides much clearer direction on research needs than the current wording in Priority 18, which states that “these studies should also incorporate research being carried out on ecosystem health.” In addition, connections between human health and critical issues discussed under other themes could be highlighted to emphasize the importance and opportunities for interdisciplinary and interagency collaboration. Examples of important linkages among themes that could be added include the following: In “Improving Ecosystem Health” and “Enhancing Human Health,” the relationship between factors that influence marine biodiversity and the sources of novel marine compounds; and In “The Ocean’s Role in Climate” and “Enhancing Human Health,” potential effects of climate change on the distributions and pathogenicity of disease-causing agents, the distributions and toxicity of HABs, and opportunities for bioprospecting. RECOMMENDATION: More careful wording should be used so that the distinction between Priorities 18 and 19 is clear, the scope of recommended

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A Review of the Ocean Research Priorities Plan and Implementation Strategy research is not unnecessarily constrained, and important linkages among research themes are described. The importance of both process studies and quantification of risk should be clearly emphasized.

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