integrated studies), rather than as a single discipline. The committee believes that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is the appropriate federal agency to lead this effort through integrated efforts of its four divisions.

The committee has identified three grand challenges that it believes should form the integrating principle common to all Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) efforts to fulfill the need for geological information about the nation's coastal and marine environments over the next few decades:

  1. establish the geologic framework of the U.S. coastal and marine regions,

  2. develop a national knowledge bank on the geologic framework of the country's coastal and marine regions, and

  3. develop a predictive capability based on an understanding of the geologic framework of U.S. coastal and marine regions.

To adequately respond to these grand challenges the CMGP must change its structures and procedures. The three grand challenges (discussed in detail below) are intended to provide the CMGP with a long-term focus and are not site or issue specific. Again, these challenges are intended as an integrative principle that should be used to evaluate the relevance of a variety of projects over the next 10 to 15 years (or longer). The resulting investigative program will be varied; as the complexity of the continental margins varies spatially, the underlying need for information will vary temporally, and successful execution of a national investigative program will require a systems-science approach. Addressing these challenges will require that CMGP projects make greater use of expertise in other units of the USGS, other federal agencies, and academic institutions. Such expanded interactions should enable CMGP to better communicate the results of its efforts to its user community. Although the committee understands that the variability and complexity of the continental margins is a familiar concept to geoscientists in general, the following discussion is included here to help establish a framework for discussing CMGP's grand challenges and near-term focus areas. It is from this perspective that the committee then argues the value of the grand challenges that face the nation's coastal and marine regions.

THE GEOLOGIC STRUCTURE OF THE CONTINENTAL MARGINS OF THE UNITED STATES

When viewed collectively, the coastal and marine zones of the United States occupy some of the most geologically complex terrain in the world (Plate 5). These areas encompass a wide variety of geologic structures that represent almost the entire range of boundaries identified within the framework of plate tectonics—from mid-ocean ridges off the coasts of Oregon and Washington to subduction zones off the coast of Puerto Rico. This diversity results in differences in the



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement