BOX 4-1 Important Points Made by the Speakers
• As industry pursues oil and gas into the deep ocean, much more needs to be known about these regions and the ecos stems and or anisms the contain
• Though the economic value of the services provided by the deep ocean is not fully known, its value is likely to be very large.
• A large array of technologic resources will be needed to understand physical, chemical, and biological processes in the Gulf, including gliders, buoys, air- and ship-based instruments, and satellites.
• Monitoring and research can be a good substitute for restoration of poorly understood regions such as the Deep Gulf of Mexico.
• If more people were exposed to education and outreach about the services the deep oceans provide, the perceived value of the deep ocean would go up.
• Industry will support marine research that has a sound business rationale.
The community of academics who study the deep ocean is not large—just a few hundred worldwide, said Robert Carney, professor in the School of the Coast and Environment at Louisiana State University. Part of the reason is the expense of studying the deep ocean, with the costs for ship time ranging up to and exceeding $100,000 per day. However, industry increasingly is pursuing oil into the deep ocean, whether off the coast of the eastern United States, Brazil, West Africa, India, Australia, or the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, coastal communities are facing threats from beyond the shallow water horizon with this offshore energy development, Carney said.
Many misconceptions about the deep ocean exist, Carney observed. He mentioned, for example, engineers who did not realize that a synthetic fitting in the deep ocean would be colonized by animals and biodeteriorate, the belief that all deepwater animals are biosynthetic, and the idea that the deep ocean has no effect on the surface ocean. Despite some myths and misconceptions being cleared up, much about the deep ocean is unknown.
Below the epipelagic zone in the first few hundred meters of the ocean, ocean water temperatures decrease to a low of about 4ºC in the Gulf of Mexico and about 2ºC in the Atlantic Ocean. The conditions of bottom water reflect both local processes and bathymetry and events occurring at a distance, Carney pointed out. For example, oxygen levels at these depths probably took 1000 years to reach these depths and under normal circumstances would persist for 300 years. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, some of this oxygen may have been consumed by hydrogen-digesting microbes, whose numbers exploded in response to the availability of oil. The resulting reduction in oxygen at these depths may slow the recovery by constraining other biological resources.
At the same time, sinking particles rapidly link the surface ocean to the deep ocean. In particular, deep waters play a very large role in the planet’s carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycling, in part because of the vast size of the deep ocean. The deep sea provides the last chance for biological remineralization before fossilization, Carney observed. In addition, the deep ocean has sequestered large quantities of chemicals in the past, which is one reason why industry is so interested in the region.
Because living things in the ocean depend primarily on detrital sinking, the biomass of ocean fauna decreases with depth. Yet fisheries do exist in the deep sea, typically populated by very old organisms. “These are very old fish that are being fished out—75 -year-old fish are going to market.” Furthermore, the variety of organisms increases with depth. This is counterintuitive, Carney said, because the deep ocean would seem to be an exceedingly monotonous habitat, though perhaps it is much less homogenous than thought. The kinds of species in the ocean also vary by depth. “Between 200 meters and, say, 4,000 meters, you’re probably going to turn over your species inventory three times. Does environmental protection policies change three times as you go down? No – the deep is considered homogenous and uniform.”
Embedded within this vast heterogeneous system are chemosynthetic subsystems that do not exist in shallow water. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, these communities start to occur at about 400 meters. Something unique about the deep sea ecosystem allows the persistence of chemosynthetic communities, Carney said—perhaps a lack of predation or something about the environment.
The Gulf of Mexico is a major basin within the Atlantic Ocean, with an extensive circulation between the Gulf and the broader ocean. Water is heated in the Gulf, flows along the east coast of the United States, and eventually warms Europe. The Gulf was once a much larger shallow ocean basin which is now filled with sedimentary structures, salt, and hydrocarbons. For example, the northern Gulf is characterized by an extensive salt layer, which is malleable and which provides conduits to the oil that industry is seeking. Tectonically, the Gulf is a failed spreading center that used to be active but is now a passive ocean basin. As Carney pointed out, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, rests atop one of the largest buried volcanoes in the United States, formed when tectonic processes were still active in the region.
The Gulf has a heavy sediment load from the decay of surrounding mountain ranges. New Orleans, for example, sits atop 8 to 14 kilometers of sedimentary structure filled with source rocks for hydrocarbons which serves as the basis of the petrochemical industry in the northern Gulf.
Carney noted that the Macondo blowout illustrated the enormous challenge of responding to spills in deepwater environments, the potential for adverse effects of response and cleanup efforts, and the complex interactions between spilled oil, dispersants, and the biophysical properties of the surrounding waters. Even under normal conditions, operational offshore drilling activities can discharge produced waters (water that is released from wells with oil and gas), drilling muds, and cuttings. Federal agencies such as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement are responsible for monitoring these activities, and the industry has established working groups to address pollution issues through trade organizations such as the Gulf region’s Offshore Operators Committee and through nonprofit organizations such as the Petroleum Environmental Research Forum.
The oil and gas industry has stated that it is willing to partner with existing monitoring and observation programs run by such organizations as GCOOS and NOAA. Carney believes that collaboration between industry and academia also can bring technological innovation into deep water, as illustrated by the Deep-ocean Environmental Long-term Observatory System that has been deployed by BP and several academic institutions off the coast of Africa, which is designed to determine long-term natural environmental conditions near and far from operating platforms. There are likely many other emerging technologies and methodologies that both the public and private sector will develop and apply to better understand and manage one of the most important ecosystems in this country, Carney concluded.
The restoration activities responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill took place largely on the coast, yet this was an oceanic spill, said Mark Benfield, professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coast Sciences at Louisiana State University. Though approximately 25 percent of the oil was recovered, the majority of it remained in the open ocean at a variety of depths. The restoration activities occurred on and near the coast because that region is accessible, it is close to many of the perceived stakeholders, and much more is known about coastal ecosystems than about deep ocean systems. “How do you restore something you don’t understand?” asked Benfield.
In such circumstances, monitoring and research can be a good substitute for restoration, Benfield said. The deep ocean is an extremely complex, coupled physical, chemical, and biological system with a variety of activities taking place from the surface to depth. Understanding what to monitor is a challenge in itself, but baseline information is needed to detect change. This baseline information was largely missing for the Deepwater Horizon spill Benfield noted. “We didn’t have the
before and the control information,” he said. “We were able to gather a lot of data afterwards but not before, so that was the real challenge.”
Nonetheless, some sources of baseline data are available, especially with the cooperation of industry. Potential data sources include oil and gas industry’s Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs), remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles. For example, existing ADCPs on platforms can detect vertical migration of plankton over the course of the day and over the course of the seasons. When the oil from the DWH spill entered the water column, the patterns of plankton movement changed near the well but not at more distant locations. “We can use this kind of data to infer what’s going on across the Gulf,” Benfield said.
Benfield also discussed the use of remotely operated vehicles to do biological and hydrographic monitoring. The oil and gas industry uses these vehicles to perform a variety of tasks at sea, creating an opportunity to gather scientific data by installing them with sensors. Such data could be used to establish baselines for marine monitoring as well as servicing deep sea observatories.
Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans derive from nature that affect human well-being, said David Yoskowitz, chief economist for NOAA and on leave as the Endowed Chair for Socio-Economics at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. But discussions of these services often overlook two critical issues: the demand for these services, and the links between ecosystem structure and function and human well-being.
Much is not known about the ecosystem services provided by inshore and nearshore environments, Yoskowitz observed, and even less is known about the services provided by offshore environments. The value of ecosystem services manifests itself in the demand for those services. The question then becomes how to assess this demand. As described by Sandra Werner (see the section “Managing an Ecosystem Service Approach” in Chapter 3), the Harte Research Institute held two workshops in 2013 that looked at offshore ecosystem services through the eyes of a small group of stakeholders, including representatives of the oil and gas, fishing, and recreational industries along with a variety of people from the governmental and nonprofit sectors. The workshop participants tended not to emphasize their own narrow interests, Yoskowitz said. Instead, they generally thought more holistically about the potential provision of offshore ecosystem services, including the value of research and education. Though the group was relatively small and more work needs to be done, it provided a “reasonable understanding of the supply of ecosystem services.”
One potential task for the Gulf Research Program, said Yoskowitz, would be to help close the gap of understanding between the structure and functioning of the offshore environment and its impact on human well-being. Such an effort could encompass not only the physical health of individuals but the emotional and psychological health of communities.
A major problem, said Yoskowitz, is that the techniques to determine the value of ecosystem services in the inshore and nearshore environment will not translate easily to the offshore environment. Ecosystem assessments tend to be two-dimensional nearshore, but they are three-dimensional offshore. Certain services may be localized to a specific depth or to the entire water column. The Gulf Research Program could “partner in the bigger effort to get at a more complete assessment of demand for offshore ecosystem services in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.
During the discussion period, Yoskowitz responded to a question that provoked a more general dialogue: the ways in which U.S. researchers are coordinating their work with researchers from Mexico and other countries that border the Gulf of Mexico. Yoskowitz briefly described a recent project known as “Gulf 360°: State of the Gulf of Mexico” that brought together Cuban, Mexican, and U.S. researchers to harmonize socioeconomic data from the countries surrounding the Gulf.1 Other workshop participants described similar efforts in a variety of disciplines while also pointing to the barriers to such efforts, including difficulties accessing proprietary data and bureaucratic obstacles within governments.
Yoskowitz also spoke to the issue of education and outreach in response to another question. Members of the general public might know something about the nearshore environment, but they are probably going to know much less about the deep ocean. “To me, the biggest advance we could make is not valuing the ecosystem services but educating about them,” he said. If more people knew about the services the deep oceans provide, the perceived value of those services would go up.
The oil and gas industry has supported some notable marine research, though this research is often not published in the scientific literature. In 1982, industry researchers did the first comprehensive survey of the loop current and its eddy by measuring the velocity
field using a new instrument known as an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler. Measurements of loop current and eddy track and intensity were developed into a historical archive in 1986, with updates every two or three years since then. In 1992, industry researchers published the first paper suggesting that the loop current and hurricane intensity are coupled. In 1999, the first comprehensive measurements of the Yucatan flow through were made, which required cooperation with both the U.S. Navy and Cuba to acquire current meter data.
In 2000 the first model and field study of the rise of oil and gas from a deepwater blow-out were made, followed by the first network of deepwater real-time ocean current measurements in 2004. In 2005, E&P Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Program initiated multimillion-dollar studies of marine sound and its impact on critical species. The first study of the effect of global warming on hurricanes in the Gulf was done by industry researchers in 2011, followed by the first operational forecast circulation model using ensemble modeling in 2014. According to Cortis Cooper, a Chevron Fellow with the Chevron Corporation, who participated in much of this research, this work has not been well publicized, but it represents major steps forward.
Industry has extensive offshore infrastructure and experience that it can bring to research partnerships, Cooper said. It also has large proprietary marine databases, though it is often reluctant to share those databases, especially with competitors. Industry has extensive networks of world-class technical experts, both within and outside of companies. However, with a few exceptions, research is not a core business concern—Cooper estimated that his company spends perhaps a few million dollars a year on joint research projects. “You really need to have a sound business reason to do marine research,” he observed. “Trying to argue that it’s going to provide good will or advance science will count, but they’re typically not sufficient on their own to justify an investment.”
Cooper briefly described some of the existing R&D consortia involving industry. The Climate and Simulation of Eddies and Eddy Joint Industry Projects (CASE/EJIP), which Cooper helped start in 1983 and which currently has 18 member companies, has been spending an average of about $250,000 a year for more than 30 years to look at extreme wind, waves, and currents in deep water, with a somewhat expanded focus in the last decade. The DeepStar consortium, which began in 1991, has a budget of about $1 million per year, with roughly $200,000 a year spent on physical oceanography topics. The Offshore Operators Committee, which has been in existence since 1948 and includes 70 companies and contractors, works on problems involving offshore pollutants when enough companies are interested in a particular project. The Petroleum Environmental Research Forum, begun in 1986, focuses purely on environmental research, again when enough companies are interested in a problem to fund the necessary research. The E&P Sound & Marine Life Joint Industry Program, with 12 companies involved, have been spending an average of about $7 million per year supporting research to help increase understanding of the effect of sound on marine life generated by oil and gas exploration and production activity on marine sound research. And, finally, the Long Term Environmental Monitoring Forum is an ad hoc group of five companies formed in 2013 to discuss long-term environmental monitoring.
After this overview of industrial research, Cooper focused on the possibility of establishing a public/private sector partnership to set up a glider network for the Gulf of Mexico. The basic concept, he said, would be to maintain a fleet of something like ten subsurface gliders that would continuously monitor the Gulf for at least several years. These gliders can offer controlled profiling of the water column and measure velocity; conductivity, temperature, and depth; dissolved oxygen; chlorophyll; hydrocarbons; turbidity; and acoustics. Today they can descend to about 1,000 meters, but within ten years they likely will be able to dive to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico—to depths exceeding 4,000 meters. Instead of remaining at the surface and going only where currents take them, gliders can be sent “where you want them to go,” said Cooper. As analytic technology continues to develop, Cooper suggested they soon could fingerprint oil using mass spectrometry, do genetic testing of organisms, and measure acidification of the water.
Industry is interested in gliders because of their ability to monitor marine mammals, quantify anthropogenic sound, track the loop current and eddies, track oil spills, identify sources of unknown slicks, track the fate and effects of pollutants, and assist search and rescue, said Cooper. For other stakeholders, gliders could monitor harmful algal blooms, measure hypoxia, track climate change, measure sediment transport, monitor restoration impacts, and explore the lower water column of the deep Gulf.
Cooper pointed to several benefits a glider network could have for the Gulf Research Program. They are an innovative and forward-looking technology that could cover many needs expressed by stakeholders. They are not redundant with other technologies and provide a rapid response capability in the event of another major spill. “Imagine if you had ten gliders out there. Within a matter of a day or two, you could quickly bring them into and surround an area like a Deepwater Horizon and begin sampling very quickly.” They would build a foundational capability in the Gulf by bringing to-
gether partners and leveraging funds. They also have an appealing educational and outreach component.
Cooper also briefly discussed the potential use of some of the industry’s offshore facilities as moorings for environmental monitoring sensors. Industry currently has extensive coverage in the Gulf with about 4,000 offshore platforms. They could provide a great deal of information to use in model simulations or to monitor the presence or absence of the loop current. There are historical precedents for the use of offshore platforms for such purposes, such as the cooperative agreement between Shell and NOAA to feed Shell’s real time meteorological information into forecasting systems. There are also challenges to the use of offshore platforms, Cooper noted, including building trust, establishing and maintaining funding, and finding a business driver that will motivate industry to cooperate. But if a solid business case can be found, industry has many resources that it can contribute to environmental monitoring projects.
During the discussion period, Cooper pointed to the many advantages of combining satellite imagery with data from a glider network. Gliders can track slow-moving features, while satellites can monitor changes that occur more quickly, and a suite of gliders could provide large areal coverage.
Five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, some sources of funding to respond to the spill are declining while others are coming on line. That makes the present a good time to think collectively and holistically about the best ways to address current issues, said Pasquale Roscigno, chief of the Environmental Studies Program for the Gulf of Mexico Region for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). BOEM has engaged in a number of partnerships with other organizations focused on such issues as ocean current monitoring, seafloor habitat mapping, and protected species observations. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities for partnerships,” he said.
As an example, he described the long-term monitoring program of the Flower Garden Banks, which is about 100 miles offshore of Galveston, Texas. For almost four decades, the program has monitored the corals and their ability to recover from hurricanes and other disturbances. “It’s a great success story between BOEM and NOAA—to manage the system in the middle of an oil field.” Recently the program has installed an ocean acidification sentinel, in partnership with Shell, to get a sense of how changing oceanic chemistry is affecting the area. This activity “is a good example of where, with good faith and good resources, we can extract oil and still protect the environment,” Roscigno said.
Another successful program has been the installation of Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs) on platforms, though originally this program was met with industry resistance. This resistance was largely overcome, however, as industry became aware of the value of these data in determining how water currents were affecting riser structures. Roscigno added that this program is now being renewed, which creates new opportunities to install additional sensors and expand their capabilities.
One of BOEM’s responsibilities is to ensure that seafloor habitat mapping is done before industry disturbs an area. This activity has enabled the use of three-dimensional seismic data to predict chemosynthetic and deepwater coral distributions. It also has resulted in the creation of seafloor maps of the seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, which were used to help locate the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
A final example Roscigno cited is noise in the sea from anthropogenic acoustic inputs such as the decommissioning of oil platforms. A recent BOEM study (Berchok et al., 2014) has documented the need for a future Passive Acoustic Oceans Observing System or regional Passive Acoustic Monitoring programs.
BOEM collects a great deal of data in a very successful partnership with other agencies and the private sector, said Roscigno. What is still needed, he continued, is a central place where metadata and perhaps original data can be located so that scientists can access this information rapidly. “It’s a hard thing to do to get different agencies and organizations to agree to some standards for the data,” he said. “But, again, the opportunity is strong at this point to get that virtual backbone infrastructure in place and link up these systems.” (Data issues are also discussed in the section “Data Requirements for Environmental Monitoring” in Chapter 2.)
BOEM has had great success partnering with other stakeholders, and additional funding creates an opportunity to extend that success, Roscigno concluded. “Let’s partner and partner and partner!”
An array of resources will be needed to understand physical, chemical, and biological processes in the Gulf, said Antonio Mannino, research oceanographer with the Ocean Ecology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, including gliders, buoys, and air- and ship-based instruments. Another critical resource is space-based measurements. Satellites can observe through the first optical depth of the oceans in
the nearshore, inner shelf, and outer shelf. With different instruments and satellites, NASA can produce data products with a wide range of temporal, spatial, and spectral specifications. These data can provide information on such factors as particle absorption, dissolved organic matter, phytoplankton type and abundance, turbidity, sea surface salinity, winds, and sea surface height.
Mannino noted that NASA also has access to measurements from ships, airplanes, and autonomous underwater vehicles, and it supports technology development to extend the capabilities of instruments. In addition, other countries produce oceanic satellite data that can complement NASA’s data, and NASA is planning new missions that will gather additional information.
Different missions and instruments have contrasting advantages and disadvantages. For example Mannino continued, low-earth polar-orbiting satellites can have gaps in coverage or can lose data because of sun glint or high view angles. Geostationary satellites are farther away but can monitor areas from the same location continuously over time. As examples of the kinds of events that can be tracked using geostationary satellites, Mannino mentioned harmful algal blooms, eddies, surface currents, coastal hazards, and tidal processes. High-frequency satellite observations also can be used to evaluate coastal models and improve model forecasting.
To design future missions that would be useful to the Gulf Research Program and other operations in the area, satellite designers need to know user requirements for temporal and spatial coverage, products, and real-time data, Mannino said.
Before the middle of the 20th century, salt marshes were generally viewed as having little value, noted Cindy Lee Van Dover, Harvey W. Smith Professor of Oceanography at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. They were drained, filled in, and replaced by highways, airports, parking lots, housing developments, as well as garbage, ash, and dredge dumps. Only since the 1960s, as scientific understanding of their ecosystem roles expanded, have salt marshes been recognized for the wide range and value of the ecosystem services they provide.
“We could repeat the same thing in the deep sea by not appreciating the ecosystem services it provides,” said Van Dover. The deep sea provides primary and secondary production, nutrient regeneration, and habitat. It produces fish, oil and gas, minerals, energy, therapeutic agents, and biotechnology products. Though the economic value of these services is not fully known, that value is likely to be very large (Armstrong et al., 2012; Thurber et al., 2014).
Since 2005, Van Dover has been working through an industry-university partnership on the ecological consequences of a deep sea mining project, and she described that work as an example of scientific work in the deep sea. A Canadian company known as Nautilus Minerals, Inc., has been developing a plan to do open cut mining of the seafloor off the coast of Papua New Guinea using equipment operated from a surface ship. While such mining would destroy sections of the seafloor, it could be less environmentally destructive than mining mountain tops, polluting watersheds, and displacing human communities.
Van Dover and her colleagues were asked to help develop a monitoring plan and assessment of environmental impact. The monitoring plan includes preliminary surveys, field monitoring analysis, database analysis, assessment, and dissemination of information, which is “fairly straightforward” compared with some of the monitoring plans that have been discussed for the Gulf, said Van Dover. The plan recognizes that mining will have a number of environmental impacts, including loss of habitat, modification of habitat quality, modification of fluid flux regimes, sediment plumes and sedimentation, light and noise, filtration of bottom water near vents, and plumes from return water (Van Dover et al., 2014). These impacts will in turn have biological consequences, including elimination or reduction of local populations; decreased reproductive output; loss of larvae and zooplankton in riser systems; local, regional, or global extinction of endemic or rare species; decreased seafloor primary production; altered trophic structure; decreased diversity at the genetic, species, and habitat levels; and mortality or impairment due to toxic sediments. Finally, there are potential cumulative effects, including chronic regional losses of brood stock, genetic diversity, species, trophic interactions and complexity, and resilience; changes in community structure; genetic isolation; species extinctions; species invasions; and loss of knowledge and other future opportunities. Monitoring of these impacts can assist in improving their mitigation, up to and including cessation of the activity, Van Dover said.
Van Dover has been working on a site called Solwara 1, which is in the Manus Basin off Papua New Guinea. A nearby area known as South Su has been serving as a reference area and will remain unmined. A major focus of the monitoring to date has been biodiversity: what species are there, what is their spatial distribution, and whether South Su can act as a reserve for species (Collins et al., 2012). Community structure comparisons include species richness (as measured by univariate statistics), species composition (as measured
by presence or absence), and species-abundance relationships (as measured by multivariate statistics). A nested sampling plan gathered 54 samples from the two sites: three assemblages at each site, three mounds at each assemblage, and three patches at each mound. This number could be reduced, Van Dover said, to acquire time series samples.
Another focus of the project has been genetic diversity, and particularly the level of endemism among sites. Studies of several vent species, including a black snail, squat lobster, and two species of barnacles, have revealed a fair amount of endemism, but less at the species level than at the genera level (Collins et al., 2012). However, for some species that can travel great distances, genetic differences are not significant across the sampled sites. The same approach has been used in the Gulf to show, for example, that some species are limited to the Gulf while others can be distributed well beyond Gulf waters.
Impacts on biodiversity from a mining activity, whether on land or under the water, can be avoided, minimized, or rehabilitated, Van Dover observed. They also can be offset, even to the extent of having a net positive impact. According to the International Marine Minerals Society, corporations have a responsibility for environmental management of marine mining.2 In a rehabilitation and decommissioning plan, this responsibility is to include rehabilitation in conceptual designs, develop rehabilitation plans and targets, monitor rehabilitation performance, account for rehabilitation costs, establish progressive rehabilitation, and use adaptive management strategies. Although this code takes the form of recommendations rather than laws, it is “the gold standard for deep sea mining right now,” said Van Dover.
For the Solwara 1 site, the immediate objective for the rehabilitation plan was to reestablish the three-dimensional mounds and fauna. Measures of success were survival, growth, and recruitment of organisms from elsewhere. The specific restoration activity would be animal relocation onto artificial substrata to facilitate recovery, with replication of treatments and controls. The costs of such an activity, with the cost models used in academia, can be extremely high, Van Dover pointed out. But the costs may be much less for industry, which already has ships available for use, greatly reducing the potential costs.
Van Dover also briefly described two other mapping projects. The first was a habitat monitoring project in the deep Pacific off the coast of Mexico. To preserve biological communities in areas claimed for manganese mining, Wedding et al. (2013) proposed using available data on 400-km by 400-km blocks to locate areas of particular environmental interest (known as APEIs). This represents “an interesting way to use data sets that are readily available but to combine them in ways that are important for monitoring.” The second project used acoustic signals to detect methane seeps off the Atlantic Coast, which in turn can be used to map the densities of animals (Brothers et al., 2013; Wagner et al., 2013; Skarke et al, 2014). Furthermore, this work can be done through a telepresence technology, with the data gathered on one day informing the next day’s mission. “You can be a deep sea biologist without even going to sea. It’s a new world for understanding deep oceans.”
Van Dover drew several lessons for deep sea monitoring from her experiences. One is that the scientific value of monitoring is often at least as great for monitoring per se and for environmental management needs. Another is that habitat mapping for baselines can be used in models to quantify ecosystem services. Oceanographic models can be used for hypothesis testing and assessment of impacts, especially with regard to connectivity, she said. Also, genetic approaches offer a relatively low-cost and high-resolution method for assessing natural resource management units, population structure, and the directionality of gene flow. Finally, process studies benefit from long-term monitoring and predictive modeling approaches.
At the end of each day during the workshop, participants broke into four breakout groups to discuss environmental monitoring opportunities with a focus on the two major areas of interest—ecosystem restoration and the deep Gulf. These observations should not be seen as the conclusions of the workshop participants as a whole. Nor are they activities that the workshop participants thought should be pursued by the Gulf Research Program. Rather, they are opportunities related to environmental monitoring and related activities, with which the Program could be involved as it develops in future years.
The Deep Gulf of Mexico
The deep ocean regions (deeper than 2000m) of the world constitute some 60 percent of the earth’s surface and much of it has never been explored and much less than 1 percent has been directly observed (Smith et al., 2009). Our current understanding of the deep Gulf of Mexico is not notably better, so consequently, any discussion of monitoring of the deep Gulf involves establishing baseline information on the biodiversity, population connectivity, biogeography, and a complex suite of physical and chemical variables that include
currents, salinity, and carbon cycling throughout the water column. Virtually all of the observations below made during the workshop breakout session focus on the tools (maps, buoys, gliders, etc.) and monitoring targets (currents, biota, water column, pollutants, nutrients, temperature, etc.) that would help researchers improve understanding of the deep ocean ecosystem and its contributions to the larger Gulf of Mexico.
• Benchmark biological observations (pelagic to benthos, including microbial communities), with particular attention to particle and dissolved flux, deep currents and advection, descriptive sampling of the mesopelagic, understanding of Gulf and Caribbean ventilation, and hydrocarbons.
• Gather pelagic data on marine and avian organisms, including high-resolution imagery for individual organisms and data for damage assessments.
• Monitor biological, physical, and chemical variables in the water column and sediment, where possible in real time.
• Establish reference profiles of stratified deep water.
• Map habitats in three dimensions and their changes over time, including types of habitat and competing uses.
• Map benthic and benthic-associated habitats in the deep ocean, including pilot projects with industry to map seafloor habitat in select sites to encourage the release of bathymetric data.
• Monitor upwelling and downwelling to understand the transport of nutrients to the shelf, using gliders, buoys, and satellites.
• Monitor subsurface movement of particles for fisheries and beach closures, including the influence of the loop current.
• Monitor deep ocean currents to assess contaminant movements, with the use of moorings and echo sounders in selected areas of the deep sea to validate ocean models.
• Investigate toxicology for deep sea model organisms.
• Monitor ocean heat content to understand the effects on species migrations and climate.
• Understand the soundscape to establish baselines and to understand the behavioral impacts and nonlethal effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals.
• Support development of new technologies, including biomarkers, sensors, satellite telemetry, adaptive sampling, and improved analytic methods.
• Support technologies to increase measurement ability and to reduce cost of technology replication.
• Develop new methods for adaptive sampling and investigate how to prioritize and optimize sampling.
• Develop better quality control, calibration, and validation for Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers for the deep Gulf, including more accurate sensors.
• Develop Gulf-wide high-frequency radar systems.
• Develop new technologies such as ferryboxes to take advantage of existing opportunities.
• Explore innovative technologies and methodologies, such as the use of historical data linkages and data mining.
• Explore innovative technology development mechanisms, such as open source technologies, prizes, and grand challenges.