The coastal zone, especially in areas adjacent to major rivers and bays, has historically attracted human settlements. It offers access to fisheries and commerce, proximity to rich agricultural lowlands, and recreational opportunities. It is no surprise that many of the world's major cities are situated along the coast. In developing nations, these cities are besieged by unprecedented population growth and overcrowded conditions. In the more developed countries, the settlement patterns, in addition to coastal cities, are characterized by nearly continuous residential and resort communities throughout the coastal areas. The coastal region of the United States saw its population nearly double, from approximately 60 million in 1940 to almost 120 million in 1980. More than half the population now lives within 50 miles of a coast, including the Great Lakes. While estimates of the rate of growth vary, it is certain that the U.S. coastal population will continue to increase in the future.
As the coastal zone becomes more developed, the demands for multiple uses continue to grow. Ever greater volumes of wastes must be disposed of safely, larger ports are needed to support increasing international trade, and there will be greater pressure for the extraction of critical mineral and energy resources located on or near the coast. Coastal areas are also more prominent in the new policies of the U.S. Navy as it shifts its focus from a global threat to regional challenges and opportunities.
In the face of more development, the requirements for a healthy environment are stronger than ever. Clean, attractive, accessible beaches are necessary to support general recreation needs as well as a tourism industry. Environmental awareness is growing, and natural beaches and green spaces are at a premium. Yet the coastal zone is made up of complex, fragile ecosystems. Accelerated land use changes threaten key ecosystem functions necessary to maintain plant and animal communities, impact the quality and quantity of our water supplies, and reduce our ability to harvest natural resources from the coast to the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone. The deterioration of coastal zones worldwide was a major emphasis at the historic Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The discussion of oceans and coasts at the Earth Summit stressed both their importance in the global life support system and the
excellent opportunities they present for implementing sustainable development strategies. It is becoming increasingly apparent that a more coordinated approach—domestically and internationally—is needed to resolve multiple, and often conflicting, objectives and to make better use of recent scientific and technological developments.
These problems are not new. Twenty-five years ago, a report was issued by the Stratton Commission entitled ''Our Nation and the Sea; A Plan for National Action'' (U.S. Commission on Marine Science, Engineering, and Resources, 1969). The report cited intensive shoreline development from housing, industry, transportation, and shipping, and the potentially large impact of development on the biological productivity of the coastal region. Recognition was given to the importance of coastal and estuarine waters and marshlands in supporting seventy percent of the U.S. commercial fishing industry. The report noted the haphazard growth of federal jurisdiction in the coastal zone and the corresponding diffusion of responsibility. The result of the Commission's report was the establishment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the enactment of the Coastal Zone Management Act. This Act provided policy objectives for the coastal zone and authorized federal grants-in-aid to facilitate the establishment of State Coastal Zone Authorities. The Clean Water Act of 1972, and later amendments, asserted federal authority over all navigable waters, requiring uniform, minimum standards for municipal and industrial wastewater. Though improvements have been made in point source discharges, the impacts of other sources of pollution have become ever more apparent. In spite of significant advances, these problems remain with us because they are difficult to resolve, both scientifically and socially.
The coastal zone is a variable and often unpredictable environment, influenced by inland environments (e.g., land use, runoff, and groundwater outflow), by the atmosphere, and by the ocean. Consequently, the systematic integration of many fields of science is required to understand these different influences and to develop a comprehensive strategy for dealing with natural and anthropogenic influences on the coastal zone. To assess the dimensions of our scientific knowledge as it applies to societal problems in the coastal zone, the National Research Council's (NRC) Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources (CGER) held a retreat on "Multiple Uses of the Coastal Zone in a Changing World" on June 25-26, 1992, at its Jonsson Study Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The meeting brought together approximately 50 experts with science, technology, and policy perspectives to explore how multidisciplinary efforts could effectively address environmental policy concerns in the coastal zone. The purpose of the meeting was to consider current approaches to research and management of the coastal zone and, in the process, to identify overlaps, gaps, and opportunities for synthesis. The participants represented both the research community and the major federal programs concerned with coastal issues. Ten working papers were presented and discussed at the meeting. They were followed by workshops that examined different aspects of the coastal zone—weather/climate, ocean circulation, geomorphology, rivers/estuaries, wetlands, land use, pollution, and public policy and institutional arrangements—and identified key issues confronting science and management.
This overview briefly summarizes the findings of the group with regard to coastal environmental concerns. At the end of the overview, some issues are presented that may merit the future attention of a larger audience, especially the federal agencies involved with coastal science and policy and the
various boards and committees within CGER that advise these agencies. It is hoped that the ideas presented here will suggest some starting points for the collaboration of these agencies and the NRC on the formulation of a more holistic approach to broad resource and environmental issues.
SUMMARY OF PAPERS PRESENTED
The papers presented at the retreat and reproduced here cover a spectrum of topics, including the state of coastal research, specific modeling needs, analysis and management of pollution problems, and the status of research funding. The papers can be recapped with respect to their major points as follows:
A Synopsis of Coastal Meteorology: A Review of the State of the Science , Richard Rotunno. In a review of the state of the science in coastal meteorology, Dr. Rotunno points out that we have the technical capacity—based on greater scientific understanding as well as improvements in computational skills—to develop comprehensive and credible atmospheric and ocean circulation models. Such models would improve our ability to predict a storm's development and intensity, with the potential benefit of earlier warning and better preparation of emergency plans.
Modeling Transport Processes in the Coastal Ocean, Alan F. Blumberg, Richard P. Signell, and Harry L. Jenter. The authors discuss the processes governing the transport of water, dissolved substances, and particles in a three-dimensional circulation model of Massachusetts Bay. Detailed models that are now possible can be extraordinarily helpful for making decisions about the assimilation capacity for various classes of pollutants, optimal siting of outfalls, the impacts of jetties, and other coastal zone projects.
Coastal Geomorphology, Stephen P. Leatherman, A. Todd Davison, and Robert J. Nicholls. The authors present the issues surrounding the various methods of protecting beaches from erosion. In spite of large investments nationwide, there is a critical lack of research and post-project monitoring that could provide a better understanding of the performance and maintenance characteristics of different beach protection options.
Rivers and Estuaries: A Hudson Perspective, Richard F. Bopp and Daniel C. Walsh. In a discussion of the contamination of the Hudson River and its estuary, the authors point out the significant and largely untapped potential for collaboration between research scientists and agencies involved in monitoring programs — a collaboration that could make these programs serve both research and regulatory objectives better and at lower cost.
Types of Coastal Zones: Similarities and Differences, Douglas L. Inman. In this paper, the tectonic origins and processes shaping coastal regions worldwide are compared and contrasted by Dr. Inman. The configuration of the continental shelf, coastal climate, and local exposure to waves, wind, tides, and currents are among the many factors that affect the stability of beaches, their capacity to protect the littoral plant and animal communities, and the ability of beaches to withstand human activities. This knowledge is essential in defining sustainable coastal development.
Landscapes and the Coastal Zone, R. Eugene Turner. Dr. Turner presents a "landscape perspective" on coastal management and research. He suggests an approach that can be used to examine environmental problems in a regional context including everything from small watersheds to major river basins. A landscape perspective can be combined with quantitative methodologies to help tackle difficult, multi-dimensional management problems such as eutrophication of coastal waters.
Coastal Wetlands: Multiple Management Problems in Southern California , Joy Zedler. Dr. Zedler provides insight into the distinctive characteristics of Pacific Coast wetlands and the problems that can arise from policies that encourage the application of general environmental standards to specific regional situations. She points out how coastal wetlands are threatened by multiple-use management strategies, and how the implementation of certain mitigation policies can cause unforeseen and unwanted consequences to Pacific Coast wetlands.
Coastal Pollution and Waste Management, Jerry Schubel. Dr. Schubel reviews recent assessments of the major pollution problems facing the coastal zones throughout the world, and suggests that without a new paradigm that recognizes the need for a coordinated, multidisciplinary research program in coastal sciences, the prospect for improvements in coastal ocean quality is bleak.
Coastal Management and Policy, William Eichbaum. Dr. Eichbaum discusses how the translation of science into sound coastal management policy is hindered by the public's difficulty in understanding an inherently complex, and often invisible, coastal and marine environment. A management approach is proposed for identifying and dealing with the most important threats to the quality of the coastal zone and for providing a framework for appropriate, sustainable development.
Research and Development Funding for Coastal Science and Management in the United States, Richard Turner and Jerry Schubel. The authors examine the pattern of research funding and trends in the coastal science and engineering professions. The current research climate is analyzed, and recommendations are made for achieving better interactions among the government, education, and industry sectors in their support of long-term research programs.
PROBLEMS WITH TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO COASTAL MANAGEMENT
The participants at the CGER retreat discussed the complexity of many coastal issues. Some of the following examples illustrate why traditional management approaches have failed to reach workable and comprehensive solutions.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, and the subsequent amendments to it embodied in the Clean Water Act, set the nation on a fairly rigid course of environmental protection based on uniform, minimum federal standards for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment. The nation's water quality has improved significantly, due largely to improvements in the quality of point source discharges. However, nonpoint sources of pollution, such as urban and agricultural runoff and atmospheric input, still cause severe water quality problems. While the need for improvement of estuarine and coastal waters quality has been acknowledged, and more attention is being paid to the control of nonpoint sources of pollution (e.g., the 1990 amendments to the Coastal Zone Management
Act), the current approach to managing coastal waters is still based on the application of uniform federal standards to point sources. This approach does not always lead to improved water quality that meets federal and regional objectives. Regional differences in coastal ecosystems also can lead to different regional priorities. For example, in the highly developed estuaries of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, excess nutrients are causing eutrophication and damage to fisheries. On the Pacific coast, however, the quick-flowing rivers and ocean currents and relatively deeper, more narrow continental shelf tend to dissipate nutrient loadings. Other problems, such as habitat loss from over-development or nearshore contamination from stormwater runoff, may have a higher priority in those areas.
Human alterations of the landscape have caused large-scale hydrologic changes. As a result of massive public works programs to improve navigation and to control floods, the Mississippi River has been shortened by 229 km and is extensively diked and leveed. The monumental efforts required to keep the lower Mississippi River from its natural tendency to meander have become the focus of popular writings by John McPhee (1989) and others. The summer of 1993 saw massive flooding of the upper Mississippi valley, demonstrating the sensitivity of major stretches of the river to rare hydrologic events. While intensive engineering of the river system protects local communities during normal high water periods, it can also magnify the force and height of extreme flood waters with costly and tragic results. In his paper, Eugene Turner explains that as a result of the massive alterations to the Mississippi River system, its historical capacity to absorb phosphorus and nitrogen runoff as well as wastewater discharges has been diminished. Excess nutrients are delivered downstream in large "pulses", altering the natural Chemical balance in estuaries and bays, and changing the composition of the marine phytoplankton community in the Gulf of Mexico. One result is that diatoms—an important food for marine fish and invertebrates—are less abundant, and other types of less desirable algae, such as flagellates, have been increasing.
Large changes to the landscape are also being made by society through the accumulated impact of small-scale decisions. For example, the issuance of many small dredge-and-fill permits—each one decided without regard to cumulative impact—has resulted in significant wetland losses in coastal Louisiana. In developed areas across the nation small creeks have been controlled by cementing or rock-filling channel banks, often increasing erosion, siltation, and flooding downstream and destroying critical marsh habitat.
One of the most significant problems for California's southern coastal areas is the disturbance and loss of coastal wetlands. Ironically, in a region of water scarcity, coastal wetlands are threatened by too much fresh water. In her paper, Joy Zedler explains how intermittent streams, which normally provide seasonal fresh water to coastal lagoons, become year-round rivers due to a constant flow of treated municipal wastewater discharge. The dilution of salt marshes and loss of endangered species habitat are direct results. Additionally, highway construction and urban development tend to close off estuary inlets, effectively reducing the natural tidal flushing and further increasing the volume of fresh water. Current environmental mitigation policies seek to compensate for a wetland loss by restoring a comparable wetland elsewhere. However, so much wetland acreage has been appropriated already that trying to mitigate losses on an acre-for-acre basis is extremely difficult. This difficulty is illustrated in the San Diego Bay mitigation project where a disturbed upper inter-tidal marsh was converted to a cordgrass marsh to help encourage the establishment of a federally endangered bird—the
light-footed clapper rail. Unfortunately, the strict habitat requirements of the endangered rail were not adequately met (nutrient content and cordgrass height, among other factors, were insufficient), and evidence indicates that the site may not accomplish its intended purpose. To make matters worse, taking out the original high marsh caused inadvertent habitat loss to a different bird—the Belding's savannah sparrow—one that is on the state list of endangered species.
Coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to the natural hazards of flooding, winds, and erosion. The communities of southern Florida have still not recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, with insured losses estimated at 20 billion dollars. About 200,000 people died in Bangladesh in April 1991 from the severe flooding accompanying a cyclone, and 10 million were left homeless according to a recent United Nations report (United Nations Center for Regional Development, 1991). While the United Nations cites reductions in the death toll worldwide compared to previous years, the tragic consequences of coastal storms are often extreme. Especially in developing countries, the impacts of natural disasters on coastal areas are exacerbated by: environmental change (e.g., denuding of forest cover); a weak or nonexistent infrastructure for sanitation, roads and buildings; an increasingly urbanized population; and the lack of alternative living sites for the disenfranchised people who often live in low-lying, flood-prone areas. Of course, in developed countries people also occupy (and reoccupy) scenic but risky areas that may be flood-prone, unstable, or subject to high winds. The societal cost of repairing damages and resettling communities is often not considered until after the tragic events.
As pointed out by Stephen Leatherman in his paper, 90 percent of U.S. beaches and 70 percent of beaches worldwide are eroding. While some of this beach material is recaptured on other beaches, there has been a net loss of coastal sediments—due, in part, to an incremental sea level rise worldwide, and in part, to human activities. Along the Pacific coast, rivers and streams are important sources of sediment to beaches. The building of dams for flood control, debris control, hydroelectric power, and water supply has reduced the supply of sand available to the coast by interfering with natural flooding and sediment transport processes.
For Atlantic coast beaches, longshore currents along barrier islands are a major influence. Unfortunately, many efforts at beach protection have had negative effects on neighboring beaches. For example, Ocean City, Maryland, is built on a barrier island that was breached by a major hurricane in 1933. In response, the city built a long jetty on the south end of the beach to catch and hold the net longshore movement of sediment from the north. The impact on the adjacent shoreline has been substantial; the immediate shoreline to the south has broken away and migrated landward the complete width of the barrier island in the past 50 years. Eventually, the northern end of Assateague Island, located to the south of Ocean City, will merge with the mainland coast, with a consequent loss of valuable habitat and coastal protection from storms. While millions of dollars are spent on various forms of beach protection and replenishment, understanding of the performance and impacts of the various approaches is still poor because of a lack of effective monitoring and research programs. There is also little research on the public policy issues associated with beach protection and replenishment (e.g., who bears the costs and who benefits?).
The richness and diversity of environments in the coastal zone present a significant challenge to scientific predictive modeling. Compared to physical processes in the open ocean and those further
inland, the coastal system is quite variable. Local tides, currents, and topographic factors combine with larger-scale ocean circulation and weather patterns to create complex interactions. In his paper, Richard Rotunno notes that our skill in predicting the weather and in modeling contaminant transport processes is generally poor for the coastal zone compared to other areas, and information about long-term climate characteristics in the coastal zone is likewise lacking. Predictive modeling for oceanic and atmospheric circulation is limited by our understanding of the controlling physical processes such as mixed layer dynamics, and forcing and feedback mechanisms, and by our ability to incorporate real observations into the models effectively. With the advent of new observing systems and the computing power to accommodate finer scale models, there is an opportunity to develop a better understanding of many of these processes.
Even with better scientific understanding and predictive capabilities, there remains a gap in the capacity of government to manage coastal resources. Policy formulation in the coastal zone is complicated by the fragmentation of governance among local, state, and federal authorities. While scientific consensus can often influence the public debate, the science of the coastal environment is extraordinarily complex, and our understanding of the nature and causes of environmental problems may be tentative and inconclusive. This situation poses serious problems for policy-makers trying to convey information about environmental issues to the public. Many severe coastal problems are not easily brought to the public's attention, and neither managers nor citizens can be expected to have an intuitive sense of their urgency. In his paper, William Eichbaum illustrates this problem with two examples. Between 1978 and 1980, over 80 percent of the submerged aquatic vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay died, and scarcely anyone noticed. (These grasses, an important food source and habitat for much of the aquatic life in the Bay, have shown a steady increase since then.) However, one can imagine the public reaction if 80 percent of the forest resources of the Bay's watershed had died during the same period. Conversely, the public's perception of a problem can often be out of proportion to the real level of risk. During the summer of 1988 when a relatively small number of syringes washed up on the beaches of New Jersey, a huge public outcry resulted. The public's response was not based on scientific assessments and may have obscured more serious pollution problems. An essential challenge for all scientists is to organize and present scientific information in a manner understandable to policy-makers and to the general public.
INTEGRATED COASTAL MANAGEMENT
In the United States, many agencies are now implementing various integrated approaches to protect, conserve, or restore coastal environments. Examples include the EPA National Estuary Program and interagency programs for the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Gulf of Maine. The effort to consider the relative influences and pollution sources from the atmosphere, the watershed, the estuary, and the continental shelf, as well as their interconnections is a daunting challenge to federal, state, and local planners, and to the scientific and technical community. In addition to technical complexities, this approach poses the challenge of mediating among the different sectors of society
vying for use of the coastal zone, and of integrating responsibilities among the different levels of government with roles in managing the coastal zone.
Scientists are being asked to consider difficult questions such as: "What effect do auto emissions have on nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion in coastal waters?" The stakes riding on the management decisions are large. On the one hand, traditional management approaches are not adequate to halt environmental degradation and associated losses. On the other hand, there are significant economic costs associated with many of the protective measures proposed, such as controlling point and nonpoint sources of pollution, imposing limits on fish harvests, and restricting coastal development. Consequently, there is a clear need for the scientific community to surmount traditional barriers between disciplines, to more actively involve social scientists (law, policy, planning, and economics), and to communicate the results of their more comprehensive analyses to environmental policy-makers and managers. There is an equally important need to examine the existing governmental structures and to define alternatives that will address coastal management issues in a more integrated way.
One of the major recommendations arising from UNCED was that national management of coasts and oceans (including the Exclusive Economic Zones) should be "integrated in content and precautionary in ambit." In addressing the problem of coastal pollution, a recent NRC report, Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas (1993), defines integrated coastal management as an "ecologically based, iterative process for identifying, at a regional scale, environmental objectives and cost-effective strategies for achieving them." Implicit in the concept of integrated coastal management is the infusion of the best scientific knowledge available into the design of research, monitoring, and management programs, and assistance in the development of new methods and techniques for better management of coastal resources. The dimensions of integrated coastal management, however, go beyond the need to understand the science and management of the coastal zone ecosystems. The broad social questions dealing with human settlement patterns, the dynamics of development of various resources and uses, and the decision making structures for governance of the coastal zone are equally important considerations that should be explored in concert with progress in the fields of environmental science and technology. Ultimately, an integrated, decision-making framework would support appropriate and sustainable development of human uses in the coastal zone.
SUGGESTED ISSUES FOR THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL AND ITS CONSTITUENCIES TO PURSUE
The Woods Hole retreat summarized here addressed a broad array of subjects, including shoreline processes, eutrophication, monitoring, modeling, the use of scientific information in environmental management, and the adequacy of present research endeavors. Many of the issues raised by the retreat participants have been at least partially addressed in recent or ongoing NRC studies. In addition to Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas mentioned above, some other relevant NRC reports are Managing Coastal Erosion, 1990; Managing Troubled Waters: The Role of Marine Environmental Monitoring, 1990; Working Together in the EEZ: Final Report of the Committee on
Exclusive Economic Zone Information Needs, 1992; Coastal Meteorology-A Review of the State of Science, 1992; Oceanography in the Next Decade, 1992; and Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems, 1992. Other important topics are slated to be addressed by studies now in the planning stage or by follow-up activities; these include response to sea-level rise, contaminated sediments, new perspectives on watershed management, marine biodiversity, eutrophication, wetlands characterization, and marine environmental monitoring.
With this in mind, the following issues are highlighted as significant priorities that should be examined closely by the relevant NRC boards and the federal agencies they serve.
Modeling Needs for Coastal Management
While traditional approaches to environmental management of coastal areas tend to focus on the coastal fringe, an integrated approach would be regional in scope, extending the geographic area and the types of environments that need to be managed farther inland, often to an entire watershed, as well as offshore. Fate-and-transport models are increasingly significant management tools for assessing air and water pollution levels. However, for these models to be effective within the framework of integrated coastal management, they must account not only for the near coast environment, but also for processes within the watersheds feeding the coast, synoptic-scale atmospheric events, and ocean circulation.
Models in use for coastal systems generally fall into one of two categories: physical circulation models (looking at currents, tides, and wind) or those based upon "ecosystem" processes, either biological or geochemical (such as carbon, energy flow, nutrient cycling, or population dynamics). The physical models need to be improved through a better understanding of circulation processes such as mixed layer dynamics, and feedback mechanisms between the ocean and atmosphere, and better utilization of observational data. To be useful, process coupling is needed to link both ecosystem and physical models. The most advanced water-quality models for dissolved oxygen and nutrients are approaching the goal of process coupling. These models are fundamentally based on circulation, but are increasingly sophisticated in their incorporation of biologically and geochemically mediated processes and should be developed further. Efforts to improve the models are still limited by data and fundamental understanding of processes. Until very recently, modeling efforts have also been limited by computer capability. Now, with access to expanded computational power, some of these new approaches may be developed. Also, new observation systems have increased the range and resolution of measurements, permitting researchers to see more complex weather, land, and ocean systems more clearly.
A possible next step would be a workshop or other forum at which the future directions for coastal predictive modeling can be discussed. One aim for such a forum would be collaboration on field experiments and modeling to improve our understanding of the dynamics of coastal atmospheric and ocean circulation, and the validation of high-resolution, nested-grid mesoscale forecasting models. The forum would also build upon the recently initiated, interdisciplinary research program by the National Science Foundation on Coastal Ocean Processes. Other discussions might address such
questions as how current monitoring systems can be improved, and how models can make use of observational (including real-time) data more efficiently. Recognizing the importance of communicating scientific information (including better estimates of experimental and modeling uncertainties) to the public, participants might explore whether large-scale modeling can become a tool to integrate the requisite social and economic variables of importance to policy-makers.
Improvements in Coastal Monitoring and Data Archiving
A key impediment to model development is the current inadequacy of available data for validating these models. There seems to be a significant and largely untapped potential for collaboration across disciplinary studies between research scientists and the agencies involved in monitoring programs. Data are often collected inconsistently, by different groups and for different objectives. Information retrieval is frequently difficult, and comparisons are questionable. While new systems and enhancements of monitoring networks are certainly needed, there is much to be gained by a closer linking of existing land, air, and sea monitoring activities with research objectives. For example, most state departments of environmental protection collect water-column and sediment-monitoring data as part of their regulatory requirements. Collaboration with research scientists could make these data-collection efforts also serve local and regional research programs, which in turn would ultimately provide better insights and techniques to the regulatory agencies.
For modeling programs to be effective, information must be easily retrievable and observational monitoring should be designed to provide adequate data for forecast models. Existing national repositories of data, such as U.S. EPA's STORET for the archiving and analysis of water-quality monitoring programs, and information networks, such as the U.S. Geologic Survey's NAWDEX (the National Water Data Exchange—a catalog of federal and non-federal water programs), are extremely valuable, but not complete. Satellite and airborne observing systems (e.g., Thematic Mapper, SPOT, NEXRAD, ASOS and Wind Profilers) have increased their range and resolution to see earth features and complex weather systems more clearly, and the computer power to accommodate finer grid scales is now available. Obtaining the necessary data for a comprehensive, regional assessment, however, will continue to be an expensive undertaking even when various groups have already collected relevant information. The new Title 4 amendment to the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act is an important step in helping to establish regional marine research and monitoring programs. Still, there is much to be learned on how best to coordinate local, state, and federal data collection to enhance the return on monitoring investments.
A useful approach to the problem of incomplete or inadequate data would be to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current monitoring activities that affect coastal environments, and to examine options for and benefits of better coordination of efforts to provide adequate data for forecast models.
Efficacy of Environmental Trading and Credits for Mitigating Coastal Habitat Degradation
Regulations that govern development in critical coastal habitats such as wetlands, frequently require preservation or restoration of an equal number of acres of like habitat to offset the loss from development. While the practice of land "swaps" or set-asides tied to development rights often has merit, the premise of habitat equivalence (i.e., "take an acre here, give an acre there") is problematic because of scale effects and the relationship of the habitats to those in the surrounding landscape. Just as the economic values of some coastal areas are greater than others for development purposes, it is increasingly clear that the environmental values of coastal habitats vary within a given coastal region. A recent NRC report, Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems (1992), noted that wetland restoration activities that are driven by regulatory requirements are fraught with poor design, involve land selected without consideration of landscape-level study and are rarely followed up. It stands to reason that protection or restoration can be accomplished more effectively — and potentially at less cost — by strategic targeting of important habitats and better valuation of natural resources in a regional context.
The merits of various regulatory approaches involving environmental trading should be critically examined in the context of integrated coastal management, the efficacy of their applications, broader economic considerations, and the research needed to improve the soundness of environmental trading in its many forms. Such an examination ultimately could provide guidance for using environmental credits to manage impacts. Both commercial interests and the environment would benefit from a better definition of the conditions and constraints appropriate for land swaps.
The institutional relationships that characterize governance of the many activities along the coast are complex, fragmented, and compartmentalized. Federal statutes (e.g., the Clean Water Act; the Coastal Zone Management Act; the Oil Pollution Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, the National Environmental Policy Act; the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act; and the Coastal Barrier Resources Act) and other laws dealing with maritime pollution and land use constitute a framework implemented by a variety of agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. These overlapping yet incomplete responsibilities for natural resource management, land use planning, water quality protection, and other activities have led to a fragmentation of outlook and decision-making. If our problems in the coastal zone are to be addressed effectively, there must be better integration of the planning, resource management, and water-pollution control functions. Regional bodies for water quality management were instituted with some success in the early 1970's. At the time, however, a federal emphasis on construction overwhelmed most of these efforts. Current efforts by the EPA and coalitions of state and local agencies toward regional management are promising.
The NRC report Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas recommends that a process of integrated coastal management be instituted for coastal areas in which existing Clean Water Act regulations are not achieving regional objectives. That report finds that existing institutional arrangements should be better coordinated and that in some places new, regional institutions may be required to realize the promise of integrated coastal management. It notes however that while a centralized, regional agency, in concept, appears to be an attractive institution for integrated coastal management, it may not in fact be the best alternative. More experience needs to be gained and an assessment made of the effectiveness of various institutional arrangements. While the issues covered at the CGER Woods Hole Retreat were broader in focus than those covered in Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas, the next steps suggested here are compatible with those suggested in that report.
Advancing these concepts to implementation will require the collaborative action of the scientific and resource management communities, and the concerned public. The NRC may find it useful to serve as a convener to bring together the EPA, NOAA, and other relevant agencies and parties to begin to formulate a plan that will foster the growth of this new paradigm.
In the face of ever increasing demands for coastal development, resource managers must be prepared with options for maintaining and restoring vital natural resources. The ideas posed in this overview and in the papers that follow suggest the types of collaboration and studies that would lead to a better integration of society's growth and environmental objectives in the coastal zone.
Mcphee, J. 1989. The Control of Nature. New York: Noonday Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1990. Managing Coastal Erosion. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1990. Managing Troubled Waters: The Role of Marine Environmental Monitoring. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Working Together in the EEZ: Final Report of the Committee on Exclusive Economic Zone Information Needs. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Coastal Meteorology-A Review of the State of Science. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Oceanography in the Next Decade. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
NRC (National Research Council). 1993. Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
United Nations Center for Regional Development. 1991. Cyclone Damage in Bangladesh. UNCRD, Nagoya, Japan.