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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research 5 Barriers to and Constraints on Regional Marine Research Much of the difficulty in designing and implementing regional marine research in coastal environments is related to fragmentation and poor coordination at all levels of government (Weisberg et al., 1999). Nowhere do the jurisdictions of so many state and federal agencies overlap as in the coastal zone. At least eight federal agencies (U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation [NSF], the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]) have responsibilities for collecting ocean data and supporting environmental research; and these all have budgets and programs that are reviewed by different Congressional committees and subcommittees. Similar problems exist at the state level, where the problem is compounded by the reality that meaningful regional boundaries usually do not conform to state boundaries. Responsibilities for compliance monitoring, environmental protection, habitat restoration, fisheries management, and land-use management typically reside in different agencies or line offices with little programmatic coordination and collaboration to make the most effective use their combined resources. This ad hoc approach to environmental science and management has led to the implementation of a bewildering array of research and monitoring efforts by state and federal agencies (Malone and Nemazie, 1996). Consequently, individual programs are often underfunded and limited in scope; measurement programs and data management activities often duplicate each other; and monitoring and research are not sufficiently coordinated to effect comprehensive programs that meet societal needs in a timely
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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research fashion. These problems can lead to the perception by stakeholders that regional issues are not of sufficient importance to command the attention and funding of government agencies and thus exacerbates the problem. A related barrier involves the interface between state and federal agencies. In the absence of a national framework for coordination, coastal states find it difficult to engage federal agencies in the development of regional approaches that can be sustained. States are forced to approach individual offices or programs on a case-by-case basis. This requires knowledge of the function of each office or program, how budget priorities are established, how it processes incoming requests, and who the key contacts are. Opportunities for collaboration are further inhibited by competition among federal offices and agencies. Such fragmentation and lack of coordination at the federal level makes the challenge of developing regional programs formidable. Another constraint relates to the geopolitical boundaries faced by state agencies. Regional research is often difficult to fund at the state level because the region encompassed by the problem of interest crosses state lines. The resulting fragmentation of research effort and resources is wasteful and, when funds are scarce, can prevent the mounting of the type of integrated regional effort that many believe is essential to meet the demand for new knowledge and information. In addition to barriers caused by intra- and inter-agency disputes and lack of coordination, there are constraints related to federal legislation and policies. The Migratory Bird Act (MBA; 1918), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 1969), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA; 1972), the Endangered Species Act (ESA; 1973), and the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA; 1976) as amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA; 1996), identify the responsibility for federal and state agencies to maintain and improve the quality of the nation's ecosystems. However, they also challenge managers with the task of balancing competing social values and rendering decisions based on little or no scientific knowledge. Further, legislation is often couched in loosely defined terms (Limburg et al., 1986), with little agreement on definitions of environmental health, ecosystem stability, or biodiversity. As shown below, these can lead to conflicting goals with ''winners" and "losers," complicating both management efforts and research planning in support of these efforts. Human interference with the cascade of trophic influences from sea otters through sea urchins to benthic algae (Estes and Palmisano, 1974; Estes and Duggins, 1995) provides a textbook example of ecological principles (Levin, 1988). Management challenges arise at every trophic level. Sea otters compete with human harvesters for sea urchins and abalone but are themselves in steep population decline, perhaps due to killer whale predation (Estes et al., 1998). However, the white abalone are nearing extinction, which invokes the ESA. Hence protection for one species, sea otters, will threaten the survival of another species, the abalone, and contribute to the loss of the valuable sea urchin and abalone fisheries. In Alaskan waters, changes in the walleye pollock and northern
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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research sea lion populations may also be involved. This makes the situation almost intractable, with most major species protected by the MMPA or ESA. As Levin (1988) noted, the web of ecological interactions, where sea otters play a central role, provides a classic example "in which multiple uses of the ecosystem are at odds and in which the diverse interests of different segments of society must be accommodated equitably." Another example is afforded by interactions involving the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon, both of which have been de-listed from ESA protection, having recovered from steep declines in population abundance caused by dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)-induced egg shell thinning and subsequent nesting failures. Both species are "apex" predators and now enjoy protection under the MBA, with their recovery often highlighted as conservation success stories. However, the consequences of this success to their prey species are rarely considered. Paine et al. (1990) identified peregrine predation as the likely cause of the decline of two seabird populations. Parrish et al. (personal communication) suggest eagle presence and to a lesser degree predation, as the likely cause for the decline in Washington State common murre populations. The management dilemma is whether or not successful restoration of apex predators, benefitting from and protected by federal laws, is compatible with the maintenance of sustainable prey populations. It is unlikely that bald eagles will ever be culled like wolves, and peregrine management has gone little beyond trapping the offending bird and releasing it elsewhere. In another instance, management actions to protect another predator, the California sea lion, contributed to the decline of the native steelhead salmon. The implications of federal legislation for both the nature and implementation of research, and any subsequent management initiatives derived from regional marine research programs, are uncertain. Effective management will probably remain difficult, if not impossible, as long as certain species are "off limits." In such circumstances, the imposing body of legislation, while achieving some desired goals, also creates substantial challenges, which can act as a constraint to regional marine research programs. In this period of limited resources and more powerful technology, it is incumbent on researchers and managers to work together to share resources, research platforms, data, personnel, and expertise. There are greater opportunities for these exchanges, within a regional research framework. Individual agency or institutional research programs often impose limits on specific research endeavors. Limits can be posed by contracting and personnel protocols or other logistic elements that are often not designed with research objectives as a goal. The collective skills and talents within a regional research framework can help compensate for these obstacles. A regional framework can help address the issues that arise from fragmented approaches including: (1) the cost in time and money required to integrate data from disparate sources (different databases, data collected on different time and space scales, different methods, etc.); (2) the lack of
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Bridging Boundaries through Regional Marine Research data of sufficient resolution, duration, and spatial extent to detect patterns of variability; (3) the lack of a data management infrastructure to disseminate and archive data of known quality; and (4) the lack of analytical capabilities to assimilate large volumes of data, to visualize the current status of ecosystems, and to predict change. Federal and state agencies can and should work to improve regional coordination of research, monitoring, and data management in support of environmental science and management, public education, and private sector applications. On a practical level, the framework of a regional research program can enhance coordinated multiagency and institution responses to both short- and long-term environmental crises (e.g., oil spill, harmful algal bloom). Well-organized and knowledgeable regional research teams can take advantage of environmental crises or forecasted climatic events to examine the ecosystems response during and following a perturbation.
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