1—
Introduction

Background

In 1988, the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended that EPA ''undertake research on techniques that can be used to help anticipate environmental problems," and that "an office be created within EPA for the purpose of evaluating environmental trends and assessing other predictors of potential environmental problems before they become acute" (EPA Science Advisory Board, 1988).

Environmental regulations and management have been estimated to cost more than $100 billion per year in the United States (see NRC 1993a for estimates). Many environmental problems have diminished as a result of such expenditures—e.g., environmental lead, air and water pollution in many areas—but some have not and new potential and actual problems continue to arise. Clearly, there is a need for an assessment of the degree to which regulations and management in relation to natural resources have been worthwhile. The public needs to know the degree to which land use programs are protecting our resources and if pollution control measures are making a difference. It would also be helpful to know which programs are working best and which are less successful.

Following the Science Advisory Board's advice, EPA established the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) "to monitor ecological status and trends, as well as to



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--> 1— Introduction Background In 1988, the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended that EPA ''undertake research on techniques that can be used to help anticipate environmental problems," and that "an office be created within EPA for the purpose of evaluating environmental trends and assessing other predictors of potential environmental problems before they become acute" (EPA Science Advisory Board, 1988). Environmental regulations and management have been estimated to cost more than $100 billion per year in the United States (see NRC 1993a for estimates). Many environmental problems have diminished as a result of such expenditures—e.g., environmental lead, air and water pollution in many areas—but some have not and new potential and actual problems continue to arise. Clearly, there is a need for an assessment of the degree to which regulations and management in relation to natural resources have been worthwhile. The public needs to know the degree to which land use programs are protecting our resources and if pollution control measures are making a difference. It would also be helpful to know which programs are working best and which are less successful. Following the Science Advisory Board's advice, EPA established the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) "to monitor ecological status and trends, as well as to

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--> develop innovative methods to anticipate emerging environmental problems before they reach crisis proportions" (EPA, 1991). In 1993 (EPA, 1993) EMAP's stated goals were to: Estimate the current status, trends, and changes in selected indicators of condition of the nation's ecological resources on a regional basis with known confidence. Estimate the geographic coverage and extent of the nation's ecological resources with known confidence. Seek associations between selected indicators of natural and human stresses and indicators of the condition of ecological resources. Provide annual statistical summaries and periodic assessments of the nation's ecological resources. As described by EPA, EMAP is unified by its approach to landscape characterization, the application of a coherent strategy for the choice and the development of indicators, and the use of a probability-based sampling approach that uses a hexagonal grid for identifying sampling sites. There are eight resource groups identified by the program: agroecosystems, arid (now rangeland) ecosystems, forests, the Great Lakes, estuaries, inland surface waters, wetlands (recently subsumed under surface waters and the Great Lakes), and landscape ecology. These resource groups are intended to represent ecosystem types or resources of national interest, and to provide a basis for incorporating ecological knowledge into the design of indicators and sampling programs. EMAP—Vision and Realities The goal of EMAP from its inception has been to monitor and assess the condition of the nation's ecological resources to contribute to decisions on environmental protection and management. In the beginning, this mission was to be attained by

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--> determining the location and extent of the nation's ecological resources; establishing, with known confidence, status and trends in the condition of these resources; and assessing the relationships between the status and trends in condition and known stressors. Over the past five years, the methods for achieving EMAP's goals have developed into the four distinct objectives, described on the previous page. EMAP will take an effects-oriented approach to monitoring, and will operate on a regional scale. According to EMAP documents, it will be capable of addressing such questions as: the proportion of the nation's lakes that are eutrophic, the changing area of geographic coverage of forest in the U.S., the proportion of fragmented landscapes in the southeast, and the proportion of the harbors and bays of the Great Lakes that are toxic to aquatic organisms. EMAP will not address the following types of issues. EMAP is not a state-level program, so it will not explain the proportion of eutrophic lakes in any particular state. EMAP was designed to report on populations of resources rather than individual entities, so it will not answer questions about the condition of a particular lake. Since EMAP is not a cause and effect program (Thornton et al., 1994), it will not examine the causes of change (e.g. the relationship of agricultural practices to lake conditions). However, EMAP is able to associate regional changes in resources and stressors. For example, an association between the eutrophic status of mid-western lakes and the ban on phosphate in laundry detergents would be possible. Various groups ranging from the EPA and Congress to the scientific community have held a wide variety of expectations of EMAP. It is helpful to review some of these expectations in light of what EMAP will probably be able to accomplish. EMAP as currently envisioned will be a broad-scale monitoring and assessment program. EMAP has stimulated scientific inquiry and will continue to do so; however, it is not itself a research program, and it probably will not directly add a great deal to our scientific understanding of ecological processes. Research should, how-

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--> ever, play a role in EMAP in several direct ways. Research is essential for the development of indicators based on sound conceptual models; for the identification of specific indicators to assess; and in the screening and validation of indicators after they are selected. Sound scientific procedures will also be important in the assessment of data collected by EMAP, in the interpretation of the data, in linking them to policy decisions, and in identifying the need for the development of new indicators. As discussed elsewhere, the scientific community will play an essential role in the meaningful review of EMAP. EMAP will provide insight into environmental policy questions, but will not provide answers. It will detect some environmental problems and suggest hypotheses as to their causes. EMAP is designed to collect and report information with a high level of known confidence for EPA's standard federal regions, but it will not provide information with the same level of precision for states, individual congressional districts, or ecological regions, although the EMAP design can be modified to provide such information. EMAP proposes to provide data on ecological indicators that have been chosen to provide "quantitative estimates of the condition of ecological resources, the magnitude of stress, the exposure of biological components to stress, or the amount of change in condition" (Barber, 1994). EMAP will provide information on the extent and condition of the nation's ecological resources and will monitor trends in extent and condition. Not being a cause and effect program, EMAP will simply report changes in the environment rather than explain them. EPA can attempt to discover the causes of any adverse or beneficial changes EMAP reports. As currently conceived, the basic regional data collected by EMAP are only the first step in the complex process of providing the necessary information for making informed decisions on environmental protection and management. Additional information will be needed for informed policy decisions if and when status and trend data indicate a potential problem (Thornton et al., 1994).

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--> The Present Study Committee Charge In 1990, the National Research Council (NRC) appointed a committee to review EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The committee, which first met in March 1991, was charged with reviewing EMAP's overall design and objectives and considering ways to increase its effectiveness. The NRC committee has reviewed approximately 150 EMAP documents (see Appendix B), and has been briefed by many EMAP officials including field personnel and the technical directors of EMAP's resource components. The committee issued three reports prior to this final review of the program. Its first report, issued in 1992, supported the purpose and goals of EMAP, but raised substantive questions about the design and implementation. The committee issued this early review of the program in the hopes that the questions raised would be used to improve EMAP as it evolved. The committee also believed that the questions in the 1992 report could have been used by EPA as criteria for evaluating the results of pilot projects. A second committee report issued in early 1994 reviewed the activities and plans of two EMAP resource groups: estuaries and forests (NRC, 1994a). This report concluded that much of the work of the estuaries and forests monitoring groups was well conceived and executed, and that many of the results of the demonstration projects were of considerable interest. The report also pointed out that the importance and uniqueness of EMAP depends on its being an integrated, coordinated, national program. The possibility of integrated descriptions of environmental trends across several resource types is what originally set EMAP apart from other intensive surveys in other agencies. However, this second report stated that no pilot studies had attempted any such

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--> integration by 1994, and that little thought had been given to the scientific underpinnings of cross-resource analysis. The committee's third report, also issued in 1994 (NRC, 1994b), reviewed another EMAP resource group: EMAP-Surface Waters (EMAP-SW). In particular, the report reviewed and commented on the Lakes Pilot Project and on early information available on the streams program. The report commended EMAP-SW for its investigation into the critical ways different sources of variation will affect EMAP's ability to detect status and trends. The report states that EMAP-SW succeeded in organizing its implementation pilot and planning the logistics of the operation. The field portion of the regional assessment of the pilot was successful, and EMAP-SW gained valuable experience in the site selection process and in evaluating the logistical aspects of the program. In general, however, the report on EMAP-SW stated that the pilot study needed substantial improvement. It failed to address all of its questions and goals and those goals and questions are a very incomplete list of the fundamental issues that need to be addressed before the surface waters program is ready for full implementation. In particular, issues of coordination among resource groups, relationships between indicators and specific stressors, and ability to make inferences on scales ranging from single lakes to entire regions, are not addressed by EMAP-SW. The committee also reviewed a stream pilot study and concluded that it was premature for EMAP to embark on the stream pilot study at this time because the sampling strategy is inadequate to characterize stream quality either chemically or biologically. This report also addressed the lack of oversight and involvement of senior scientists from a central management team at EMAP Center, which might have enhanced the scientific rigor of the pilot study.

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--> This Report: the Final Review The present report represents the committee's judgments after four-years of review. Chapter 2 focuses on matters that apply to the whole program, including the purposes of monitoring and those kinds of problems for which it is a more or less useful tool. Chapter 3 discusses the various components of EMAP that apply to all resource groups in EMAP, while Chapter 4 treats the resource components. In some cases, the committee has recently completed and published a review of the component, and only the executive summary of that report is reproduced, with any updates if they are applicable. The committee's conclusions and recommendations follow each chapter and the main ones are presented in the executive summary.