2
Regional Marine Research, Why Do It?

The United States contains thousands of regions, from area codes to climate zones, that have been defined for various purposes by many groups. For the purposes of this report, region is defined as the next larger scale of organization in time and space required to understand the local scale of interest (Powell, 1989; Lee, 1993; Nixon, 1996). It must be emphasized that regional research is not simply large-scale research, and that the argument for doing regional research does not imply that smaller systems are so well understood that it is time to move on to larger systems. As concisely expressed by Nixon (1996):

The concept of 'region' implies an awareness of, and an interest in, functional linkages among systems . . . once we have quantified the influence of larger scale processes and events, we will be in a better position to make useful predictions about the future state of our local ecosystem of primary concern.

Assessing and understanding the effects of natural perturbations and anthropogenic stresses on coastal ecosystems requires a regional perspective that links larger-scale changes in ocean circulation, climate, and land-use practices to local changes in coastal marine ecosystems. Although some programs are regional, as defined by the size of the area that is under investigation, a special feature of many regional programs is the ability to fill the gap between local and global scale studies. In this context, a major purpose of regional marine research is to determine how events are propagated from one scale to another and then to predict the consequences of these events.



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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research 2 Regional Marine Research, Why Do It? The United States contains thousands of regions, from area codes to climate zones, that have been defined for various purposes by many groups. For the purposes of this report, region is defined as the next larger scale of organization in time and space required to understand the local scale of interest (Powell, 1989; Lee, 1993; Nixon, 1996). It must be emphasized that regional research is not simply large-scale research, and that the argument for doing regional research does not imply that smaller systems are so well understood that it is time to move on to larger systems. As concisely expressed by Nixon (1996): The concept of 'region' implies an awareness of, and an interest in, functional linkages among systems . . . once we have quantified the influence of larger scale processes and events, we will be in a better position to make useful predictions about the future state of our local ecosystem of primary concern. Assessing and understanding the effects of natural perturbations and anthropogenic stresses on coastal ecosystems requires a regional perspective that links larger-scale changes in ocean circulation, climate, and land-use practices to local changes in coastal marine ecosystems. Although some programs are regional, as defined by the size of the area that is under investigation, a special feature of many regional programs is the ability to fill the gap between local and global scale studies. In this context, a major purpose of regional marine research is to determine how events are propagated from one scale to another and then to predict the consequences of these events.

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research LINKING LOCAL AND GLOBAL SCALES Multidisciplinary research on ecosystem processes (e.g., biogeochemical fluxes, nutrient cycling, and trophic dynamics) is typically limited in duration and spatial coverage. Although satellites have provided observations of oceanic variables (e.g., sea surface temperature, surface waves and currents, and ocean color) at a global scale, the properties that can be measured are typically limited to the ocean surface and the resolution is generally not sufficient for local studies in near-shore regions. Rarely do we ask the question: what are the largest and smallest scales that must be observed to capture most of the variance of the properties of interest (Powell, 1989)? Regional marine research and monitoring provide the means to bridge the gap between local process studies and global-scale observations. Large spatial scales tend to be associated with long time scales and greater ecological complexity, and small scales tend to be associated with short time scales and less ecological complexity (Malone and Botsford, 1998). Even when events or processes must be studied at one spatial scale, their effects propagate to influence outcomes of societal importance on smaller and larger scales. For example, the process by which a larval fish finds its first meal occurs within a volume encompassing cubic millimeters to centimeters, requiring the analysis of small-scale distributions of larvae and potential food. Yet, such studies of the interactions of small-scale physical and biological processes and their effects on the feeding success of larval fish are important in understanding and predicting the success or failure of a year-class of fish, the large-scale result of utmost importance to society. Conversely, El Niño is a basin to global-scale event. Although monthly water temperatures measured at a single Pacific coastal station may yield a good temporal record of local trends, understanding the El Niño phenomenon requires large-scale observations of water temperatures and ocean-atmospheric interactions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Small-scale, process-oriented experiments and observations need to be embedded in, and integrated with, large-scale monitoring. The value of many studies has been limited by the lack of integration between small- and large-scale processes. Although prediction is fundamental to understanding interactions and exchanges within and among coastal ecosystems, little progress has been made in predicting change and variability across scales of time, space, or ecological complexity (Nixon, 1996). Linking local events to global-scale environmental changes will provide a powerful tool for resource managers, policymakers, and the public in preparing for future management challenges. Examples include the prediction and mitigation of natural hazards, and the contribution of longer time-scale climate variability such as the ocean-atmospheric event, El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The scientific and management communities have long recognized the dominant forcings of coastal ecosystems and the general nature of coastal ecosystem dynamics that define indicators of change (Table 1-1).

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research However, a major barrier to the goals of predicting environmental changes and assessing consequences of these changes is the scarcity of observations of coastal ecosystems of sufficient duration, spatial extent, and resolution. Knowledge, both theoretical and empirical, concerning the propagation of variability across scales, through and between coastal ecosystems, is also lacking. Realistically, there are too many coastal ecosystems, too few resources, and too little time to evaluate the causes and consequences of environmental change in each system. Hence, prediction will be an important tool for extrapolating results, for testing hypotheses, and for developing theories that can be applied to a broad range of systems with sufficient certainty to be credible. Regional marine research and the comparative analysis of selected ecosystems in a regional context will be critical to the development of a predictive understanding of environmental variability in the coastal zone. RESEARCH IN THE CONTEXT OF SUSTAINED OBSERVATIONS Hypothesis-driven, or question-oriented, studies designed to reveal the mechanisms underlying environmental processes are especially valuable when done in the context of sustained, long-term observations. Monitoring provides the information needed to develop, test, and refine environmental models and therefore is an integral component of regional research programs. Comparative studies are important in the development of useful empirical theories, but unless they explicitly include the influences of larger-scale processes and events on the ecosystems being compared, such comparisons will be of limited value. It has become increasingly clear that interannual and interdecadal variability in coastal ecosystems, associated with ocean basin or global atmosphere-land-ocean interactions, is part of the natural, variable baseline for short-term field studies and predictive models. Whether this variability is viewed as consisting of events, cycles, regime shifts, or a long-term trend, it must be taken into account, particularly if the effects of natural perturbations and anthropogenic stress are to be resolved (for the purpose of mitigation, litigation, or costly remediation and restoration). Similarly, the results of a regional program of finite length may be used to make managerial decisions, policies, or regulations of greater lifetime. The assurance with which this should be done depends not only on the quality and completeness of the research in the program itself, but also on understanding of the larger-scale climatic state within which the program was conducted. The importance of research in the context of sustained observations (i.e., long-term monitoring) is illustrated by three examples, one concerning the regional effects of large-scale meteorological events on Chesapeake Bay and two concerning fisheries management on the west coast. The Chesapeake Bay case illustrates the impacts of unpredictable events. The fisheries examples illustrate the importance of the interplay between observations and the development of theory. All three are cases of ongoing studies in which coupled biological-physi-

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research cal models play an increasingly important role in supplementing incomplete observations. Case 1—A major event occurred in June 1972 that had a delayed, but dramatic impact on nutrient research and management throughout the Chesapeake Bay region (Malone et al., 1993). Tropical Storm Agnes dropped more than 5 inches of rain over the entire watershed in 2 days; 30% of the region received over 12 inches of rain. The major rivers discharging in Chesapeake Bay crested with record highs and extensive flooding. The resulting input of nutrients from diffuse sources into the watershed caused multi-year increases in phytoplankton productivity, a massive decline in submerged attached vegetation (e.g., Zostera marina), and mass mortalities of oysters and soft shelled clams (Boynton et al., 1982; Orth and Moore, 1983). The storm highlighted the system-wide susceptibility of the Bay to nutrient enrichment from land-based sources (e.g., fertilizers and animal wastes) and demonstrated that short-term, high-energy events can have long-term consequences. These changes provided the motivation for the establishment of the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), a sustained and integrated program of monitoring and modeling, designed to answer questions concerning the effects of human activities on water quality and living resources and to assess the efficacy of management decisions intended to protect the environment and sustain living resources. Case 2—The coastal Pacific sardine fishery, in the late 1940s the world's second largest fishery in tonnage, collapsed in 1948-1950. Controversy between state and federal fisheries agencies as to the role of overfishing in the collapse was resolved in part, by establishing the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a monitoring program with a regional, ecosystem (rather than single species or local) perspective (Scheiber, 1990, 1995; NRC, 1990a). Prior to the collapse of the fishery, tagging studies had shown that the range of the sardines extended from British Columbia to Baja California. This made it clear that a regional initiative was needed because ''the sardine respects neither state lines nor national boundaries" (CalCOFI, 1950). In 1948, the California Cooperative Sardine Research Program was established to study the biological, physical, and chemical oceanographic processes that affected the sardine populations in the waters off California (NRC, 1990b). In 1953, the program was renamed the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation and expanded to include other pelagic marine fishes. A particularly important discovery for the CalCOFI investigations were anoxic sediments containing fish scales that could be counted to determine the prefishing levels of both the sardine and its putative competitor, the northern anchovy (Soutar and Isaacs, 1974; Baumgartner et al., 1992). This showed that fishing probably exacerbated a natural decline and spatial contraction of the sardine stock and that the decline was not simply a case of over-fishing an

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research otherwise stable population (see Wolf, 1992, and Smith, 1995, concerning the sardine's recent recovery). In this instance, although variation in the populations' sizes and coastal ranges are well established, causal connections with physical forcing are still uncertain (Box 2-1). Case 3—In the salmon case, the shift in the success of populations at different degrees of latitude has been related, through correlation, to the North Pacific or Aleutian Low oscillation (a "regime shift," reflecting ocean-atmosphere warming and cooling) which was observed during the 1970s (Francis and Hare, 1994). Several plausible theories as to mechanistic causes have been advanced (Polovina et al., 1995; Brodeur et al., 1996; Gargett, 1997); and there is an indication that the salmon's first year of life in the ocean is a critical one. However, time-series measurements of ecological parameters, other than those that can be derived from the salmon themselves, are sparse. Several programs (e.g., West Coast Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics [GLOBEC], Pacific Northwest Coastal Ecosystem Study [PNCERS]) have been established in an attempt to address this deficiency. STATE AND FEDERAL COLLABORATION IN RESPONSE TO ENVIRONMENTAL CRISES AND EVENTS The examples above illustrate the importance of research in the context of sustained observations. The emphasis of this section is on the challenge of responding quickly to an event or crisis, both to mitigate impacts and to improve predictive understanding. Examples of relevant observing systems include the tsunami warning system, the Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean (TAO) array for detection and prediction of El Niño events, and the current effort to design and implement the U.S. coastal component of the ocean observing system. Prediction of the 1997 El Niño gave the CalCOFI program an opportunity to proactively document the ecological impact of a climatic event; this case illustrates the value of a working partnership between state and federal agencies (Box 2-1). Important and underdeveloped tools include assimilation techniques and numerical models for timely analysis and predictions of extreme events and their consequences. Current programs to address this need are being funded by the National Ocean Partnership Program, with the goal of integrating local and regional measurement systems and numerical models through data assimilation schemes. The hope is to develop generic datamodel systems that will be useful for a broad range of applications. Responses to environmental crises are typically based on past experiences with phenomena such El Niño, tsunamis, oil spills, and harmful algal blooms. Such events cover a range of magnitudes and frequencies. Other events are surprises and often cause dramatic system-wide changes. A clear example is provided by the introduction of an Asian clam, Potamocorbula amurensis, to San Francisco Bay (probably via ballast water). The clams' subsequent establishment and growth has radically altered phytoplankton biomass and the abundance of

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research Box 2-1 California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) in 1998 Two major environmental changes, which led toward different designs of sampling, provide a case history illustrating the importance of pre-emergency cooperation between agencies. CalCOFI is a collaboration among the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California, San Diego; the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the California Department of Fish and Game, and has emphasized careful, long-term (nearly 50 years) monitoring for the purpose of documenting environmental change. A committee with representation from the three agencies meets routinely to establish policies. Although the program had originally sampled monthly, from northern California to mid-Baja California, in 1984 the sampling program was changed to quarterly cruises, each with 67 stations spaced from San Diego to Port San Luis (San Luis Obispo), and 700 km seaward. In 1997, NOAA scientists predicted a major California El Niño, which led to a plan, supported primarily by University of California researchers, to: Continue sampling far offshore so that the position and flow of the California Current, and the extent of oligotrophic regions west of the Current, would be monitored; and Obtain additional resources to intensify temporal coverage so that the waxing and waning of the El Niño could be described. The fisheries agencies were more interested in the increase in the population of the California sardine, whose decline 50 years earlier had led to the establishment of CalCOFI. The increase was accompanied by the expansion of the spawning area north of the area sampled by CalCOFI. Hence, to obtain both fundamental understanding (in relation to environmental processes) and data on spawning biomass (from sampled eggs and larvae), these agencies urged expansion of the survey north and along the coast, even at the cost of abandoning the farthest offshore sampling. Within a few months, the University of California and NOAA each agreed to provide the resources (about $300K each, from a base of $750K) to accomplish the goals of all three agencies. Without the pre-existing collaboration in the management of CalCOFI, it is doubtful that this could have been accomplished in time. However, such resolutions can be short lived. The mutually supportive responses of the agencies to ecological changes in 1998 frayed badly in 1999, due to budgetary problems within NMFS. This imperiled the documentation of the return to "normalcy" after El Niño, which was even predicted to overshoot to "anti-El Niño", or La Niña, conditions by NOAA physical scientists.

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research native zooplankton populations (Cloern, 1996). Such introductions of non-indigenous species can lead directly to the loss of living marine resources (including commercial species of fish) and result in a decrease in species diversity. Invasive species require a rapid response to study and mitigate the problem, underscoring the importance of flexible and adaptive programs for research and monitoring. PROBLEMS TRANSCEND GEOPOLITICAL BOUNDARIES, AGENCIES, AND DISCIPLINES A comparative study of the scientific basis of policy and management decisions in four coastal seas (Baltic Sea, Chesapeake Bay, North Sea, Seto Inland Sea) resulted in two important conclusions relevant to this analysis (Morris and Bell, 1988). First, research activity independent of mission (operational) agencies and the availability of objective scientific advice from the scientists who conduct this research enhance the quality of management decisions. This occurs despite the reality that economic, political, and social forces often overwhelm the technical links between scientific information and management decisions. Second, sound and effective environmental and resource management depends on recognizing and understanding "the system as a whole" in a regional context. When the decisionmaking process does not consider the largest scale required to capture the variance of factors relevant to the local scale of interest (natural and anthropogenic), it is likely that the unsustainable use of resources will persist until the full scale of the problem is appreciated (Lee, 1993). For example, scale mismatches occur when the consequences of change are far removed from the source of change (e.g., mass mortalities of sea lions along the southern California coast and El Niño, depletion of oxygen in bottom water of the northern Gulf of Mexico and fertilizer use in the watershed of the Mississippi River, declines in fish stocks in a coastal ecosystem and upstream diversions of freshwater). Likewise, temporal-scale mismatches occur when long-term ramifications are not considered (e.g., the unsustainability of wild fish stocks in the long term when fishing pressure is too high in the short term, the gradual loss of wetlands in river deltas due to dams, channel formation, levees, and other diversions of freshwater) (Boesch, 1996). The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, a governmental organization established in 1989, serves as a successful example of an approach to addressing problems transcending geopolitical boundaries. The five jurisdictions bordering the Gulf of Maine (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) organized themselves to serve the role of facilitator and convenor on key gulfwide issues affecting each of the jurisdictions. The council includes representatives of government jurisdictions, and the business sector. One valuable example of a measure implemented by the council was the creation of an action plan that is interwoven into each jurisdiction's annual work plans. As a result, there was a concerted effort to jointly support Gulfwatch, a gulfwide toxics

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research monitoring program. The combined investments lead to greater long-term support, understanding, and awareness of the issue within the Gulf of Maine. A second example is the CBP. The CBP began with the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement in 1983, in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia agreed to work together to protect and restore Chesapeake Bay and its resources. This led to the initiation of the National Estuary Program (NEP). A second Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed in 1987, which expanded the scope of the 1983 Agreement with 29 commitments for action in six areas: living resources, water quality, population growth and development, public information, education, and public access and governance. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Agreement was the scientific consensus that provided the rationale and will to commit to a 40% reduction of controllable sources of nitrogen- and phosphorus-loading by the year 2000. This commitment was reaffirmed by the Chesapeake Bay Agreement's 1992 Amendments that identified specific indicators to be used to measure the effectiveness of the nutrient management strategy. The success of the CBP lies, in part, with the interaction between monitoring and research and with its effectiveness in promoting continued public support (Malone et al., 1993). From the beginning, the CBP established linkages between decisionmakers, management agencies, the scientific community, and the public through a governance structure built around the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council and its three advisory committees: the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Science and Technology Committee, and the Implementation Committee. An important result was the development of a process for producing data products useful to scientists, managers, and policymakers through a three-tiered reporting strategy that was endorsed by the National Research Council (NRC, 1990a): Level I, semi-annual data reports for technical audiences summarize the status of data collection and tabulates data; Level II, bi-annual reports, also for technical audiences, provide some analysis that describes relationships among variables and places data into an ecological and regional perspective; Level III reports, produced periodically for politicians, management agencies, and the public, provide an overall assessment of the status of the Bay and of potential management actions that might follow from scientific findings. Recently, this three-tiered reporting strategy has been replaced with "state of the bay" reports, through publications in the Bay Journal, and via the Internet site for the Chesapeake Information Management System (CBP, 1999). The governance structure of the CBP and the reporting strategies described above, resulted in the most comprehensive and sustained observing system in the nation. Hennessey (1994) reviewed the CBP and concluded that the evolution and refinement of its

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research management objectives based on monitoring data, research results, and scientific information represent a model for the effective application of adaptive environmental management. Coastal ecosystems generally encompass multiple jurisdictions and cultures. This adds to the complexity of managing the already complex coastal environment with its contrasting scales of variability and mix of terrestrial, freshwater, and oceanic inputs. Hence, the challenges of coastal zone management are exceptionally difficult and underscore the importance of implementing proactive, adaptive approaches to environmental and resource management. In many cases, comprehensive regional research programs that are based on an extensive communication network will be needed to effectively link political, social, cultural, commercial, and environmental interests. DATA MANAGEMENT Integrated data management is of central importance to the success of regional marine research. For the most part, data management has been handled by each program individually to meet needs specific to that program. However, data management should also enable constructive and timely interactions for monitoring, research, modeling, and user groups. This goal requires more integrated approaches that are designed to meet the needs of both user groups and data providers and ensure that the legacy of regional marine research programs—the data—is available for future generations of scientists and managers. Coastal data and information systems are needed that use and enhance existing national and regional data center capabilities. Initial efforts should focus on regional approaches to data management and synthesis that can be networked to achieve national scale assessments, such as the development of accepted protocols, intercalibration procedures, quality control, timely data dissemination and analysis, and archives. Currently, the effort to develop a report card for environmental health, "Designing a Report on the State of the Nation's Ecosystems," includes provisions for assuring consistent, nationwide standards for data quality, distribution, and linkages to the data sources (H. John Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, 1999). However, it is important that the data products address regional needs and are provided in a format that is both accessible and interpretable by the local, state, and regional management agencies. Data management must be flexible in order to accommodate disparate data types and scales of sampling, including emerging and new technologies; data must be in a format that is suitable for a broad audience, including multi-user capabilities and real-time data dissemination. The goal should be integrated data systems designed to allow users to exploit multiple datasets and to ensure the flow of data to national archives. The National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) has begun to work with external data centers and is active in planning for the regional development of the

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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research U.S. Coastal Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). This effort should be coordinated with other regional efforts such as LabNet, a regionally organized project of the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML). NAML is in the process of designing and testing LabNet as a means of networking laboratories for more timely access to data and information and cost-effective monitoring of coastal waters. The purpose of LabNet is to provide the infrastructure required to exchange and integrate data collected at different locations, on different time and space scales, and using different methodologies for a nearly seamless analysis and visualization of patterns.