The relative importance of these thematic research issues will vary between and even in the major coastal and marine provinces discussed above, but all will require multidisciplinary approaches and alliances with other federal and state agencies. Although efforts to address the three grand challenges will, by their nature, need to be coordinated by program leadership, there should remain some room for individual scientific inquiry.
In setting this first grand challenge, together with its component subthemes, the committee feels that, with recognition of the diversity of the eight major coastal and marine provinces, a greater need for interdisciplinary and national assessments will follow. It is no longer sufficient, for example, to document the erosion rate at a stretch of shoreline in response to storms without taking into account the influence of the associated geologic factors (tectonics, glacio-eustatic rebound, hydrology), which may have a stronger influence on erosion rates. By undertaking a systematic assessment of the geologic framework of coastal and marine environments these interrelated variables can be compared and fundamental causative factors determined. Erosion rates must be integrated with process models, geologic information, and ecosystem models if CMGP is to produce forecasts that lead to sound decisionmaking.
Similarly, wetland loss along the Gulf Coast cannot be examined adequately through single-discipline studies; quantitative information on geologic, biologic, and geochemical settings must be integrated into the studies to make the sound predictions needed to support coastal management decisions. Along the western coastal margin, such coastal changes as landslides and erosion must be integrated into a broad-scale model that takes into account the dynamic tectonic nature of this coast. Lastly, to thoroughly understand and predict the rapid degradation of coastal coral reefs, we must not only study coral ecology but also include studies of the hydrologic, atmospheric, and geologic processes in these environments.
This coastal and marine geological knowledge bank should serve as a comprehensive inventory of geologic data developed by all interested agencies, academic institutions, and state agencies much like the knowledge bank of U.S. oil and gas resources, which has been developed by the USGS energy resource program and the Minerals Management Service. Furthermore, the development of such an inventory would represent a unique opportunity to foster even greater cooperation with federal, state, and local partners.
USGS and CMGP have unique access to many forms of data collected using public funds. CMGP can thus play an important role in making those data publicly accessible. In recent years, this has become somewhat easier to accomplish with the advent of electronic distribution systems (Internet or CD-ROM),