Contamination (''toxification'') of the environment, including waste disposal and remediation (distribution, transport, fate, and effects of pollutants). Contamination of the coastal environment is widespread (both in the U.S. and worldwide), especially near major population centers and at sites used for waste disposal. Pressures will increase with a growing coastal population and use of the coastal ocean. USGS has a unique role, since many contaminants introduced to the coastal ocean are associated with particles.
Biodiversity (including declining productivity, disturbance of habitats, protecting habitat, etc.). Fish stocks are declining due to overfishing, habitat disturbance, and other factors. There is increasing pressure for coastal aquaculture. There is worldwide concern for loss of biodiversity, much of which occurs in the ocean or the coastal ocean. The land and seafloor (topography, microtopography, and sediments) play a key role in the habitat of many species; thus, a description and understanding of how these habitats provide shelter and food for species is critical for management and protection of these resources.
Sea-level rise. Predictions are for global warming to cause a rise in sea level of tens of centimeters over the next century. This increase will have major effects on many coastal communities worldwide.
Long-term indicators of environmental change. There is a need to develop and maintain indicators of environmental change over the long-term. Long-term observations must be obtained in the context of the overall system and continually analyzed to ensure quality and to further understand the processes causing change (natural and anthropogenic).
National scope (i.e., we can address issues around the country in a coordinated way);
Systemwide regional focus. USGS is not constrained by local funding and can address the issues at an appropriate system level. This is often particularly important in coastal regions where many issues are local (clean drinking water, waste disposal, etc.), yet these problems are best addressed in a regional context.
Long-term. USGS can provide a long-term focus for issues and interpretation. This is particularly important in assessing longterm environmental change and in developing and maintaining information and knowledge.
Stewardship of data (developing, maintaining, distributing, using).
Unbiased, public domain, basic science and resource assessments within a regional framework. We are uniquely situated to walk the fine line between engineering/consulting, academic, and political "agendas." No other agency can do that in the coastal zone.