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The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief (2020)

Chapter: The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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Proceedings of a Workshop


IN BRIEF

May 2020

The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy

Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief

Oceans have long been a frontier of opportunity for exploration, scientific understanding, commerce, and trade for the United States. The transformative technologies of the fourth industrial revolution—artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things, biotechnology, advanced materials—are expected to recondition traditional ocean-based industries and enable the growth of new markets prioritizing sustainability. At the nexus of unprecedented environmental change and rapid technology innovation, how should the United States position itself as a leader in the global ocean economy? On February 4 and 5, 2020, the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) convened experts to discuss the importance of cross-sector collaboration and the opportunities for U.S. leadership in the context of a changing ocean and a changing ocean economy. Not all aspects of marine research and technology could be discussed in the limited time frame of the workshop, but the dialogue identified a broad range of emerging technologies that will impact the changing ocean economy.

Susan Avery, President Emerita at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, delivered the workshop’s keynote address. She began by contextualizing the size of the ocean, which covers two-thirds of the planet, is on average two kilometers deep, and contains the world’s longest mountain ranges and tallest mountains. It holds most of the water on Earth, which drives our planetary climate system and water cycle and makes the planet habitable for humans. The ocean contains more than 90 percent of the world’s biodiversity, an ecosystem that delivers a rich source of food for humanity. Approximately 45 percent of the global population lives within a mile of the ocean, but all humans depend on it. Avery noted, “In terms of our impact on the oceans, nearly every material made by humanity has a good chance of ending up in the ocean.”

Avery stated that addressing the global issues around the ocean economy requires broader systems thinking. Consideration of both natural and human systems is necessary to comprehend the complexities of ocean science and policy. She reminded attendees that though the planet’s ocean and atmosphere are generally studied as separate entities, the two systems are connected in a constant exchange of heat, moisture, and nutrients. Additional research and technology is needed to expand our understanding of these exchanges.

Addressing the gaps and challenges in ocean research is difficult, given the conditions of the research environment—withstanding the navigation challenges, depth, pressure, cold, and dark is a feat in itself. Despite these challenges, improving our understanding of the ocean and its related systems is critical, given how limited our knowledge about the ocean continues to be. Satellite remote sensing is an important asset for measuring ocean surface conditions, but it does not provide the needed measurements below the surface. A new generation of scientific and engineering tools, including advanced co-robotic systems, sensors, and eDNA, will broaden in-situ observational abilities and advance the science needed to support a robust blue economy.

Avery noted that the natural and economic systems related to the ocean touch the lives of all humans. The ecosystem services provided by the ocean are provided largely for free, though their economic value is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. The aforementioned advancements in ocean data collection and analysis are pieces of what some call the “blue economy”—essentially an information and knowledge generating economy. Examples of blue economy activity include ocean technology, ocean energy and resources, fisheries and aquaculture, biotechnology and bioprospecting, coastal tourism and recreation, and informatics for decision-making support.


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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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Avery stated, “The ocean plays an important role in key questions such as how to build the cities of the future and what food production systems are needed to feed a growing population.” A growing concern in many societies is the future of waste disposal, and particularly the accumulation of plastics in the ocean. Avery emphasized that every molecule humans produce has the potential to find its way to the ocean. Much of the world’s current system of waste production and disposal ignores the essential reality of the life cycle of products, which remain in nature when simply relocated. A circular economy, in which scientists and engineers develop products—including plastics—with a plan for the reuse of essential feedstocks and for products’ eventual deterioration or dissolution in mind is necessary to address this problem.

“Connecting science to action on issues related to the oceans is critical,” said Avery. “A systems approach will be need to address global challenges. Moving forward, we need an ocean knowledge economy that is the foundation for a blue economy.”

EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE GROWTH OF THE U.S. OCEAN ECONOMY

The first session of the second day of the meeting focused on federal policies and partnership to enable greater learning from the oceans. RDML Tim Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), discussed the ways in which the administration, through NOAA and in partnership with other agencies, is expanding knowledge about the ocean to facilitate the growth of the U.S. ocean economy. “Kelvin Droegemeier, the White House Science Advisor, has called for a bold era in American innovation and major research and development (R&D) around our oceans,” said Gallaudet. To further identify R&D needs and partnerships, the White House hosted an Ocean S&T Summit in November 2019, which kicked off a year of partnership across government agencies.

“We are now in the ocean age,” said Gallaudet. Maritime activity has increased 400 percent over last 25 years. Economic activity in U.S. seaports is valued at $5.24 trillion dollars, which accounts for 26 percent of the U.S. economy.1 By some estimates, marine transportation is predicted to double by 2025 and triple by 2030. The range of economic opportunities that the ocean offers is abundant especially in areas including pharmaceuticals, aquaculture, energy, and critical minerals.

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FIGURE 1 Leadership to power the American blue economy.
Source: Timothy Gallaudet, NOAA.

Gallaudet noted that NOAA has identified the blue economy—defined in this case as advancing the sustainable use of resources from oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes—as a priority issue. The agency’s focus on the blue economy includes five key areas: seafood production; tourism and recreation; ocean exploration; marine transportation; and coastal resilience (see Figure 1). NOAA is working to increase the sustainable economic contributions of ocean data and services to support development in these areas.

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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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Regarding U.S. seafood production, Gallaudet highlighted recent progress: since 2000, the United States has restored 46 previously overfished stocks, bringing the number of overfished stocks to an all-time low—only nine percent of all U.S. fish stocks are subject to overfishing.2 “Aquaculture has the potential to transform our food supply, and we have the tools to minimize its environmental impact,” stated Gallaudet. Currently the United States imports 90 percent of its seafood, but Gallaudet noted, this must change to improve the nation’s food security.

A protected coastline is critical to supporting U.S. tourism and recreation, and NOAA is seeking to expand national sanctuaries for these uses. Addressing the significant challenge of marine debris is also of concern, which Gallaudet mentioned is a core component of the bipartisan Save Ours Seas Act, which awards an innovation prize for research in response to the issue and improves preventative waste management infrastructure. NOAA also has a focus on supporting coastal resilience through coastal management activities, including increasing and strengthening communities’ ability to withstand coastal flooding.

NOAA is deeply invested in developing technologies that can enable the United States to efficiently harness the ocean’s resources. “A recent Presidential memorandum supporting the expansion of ocean mapping will help to expand the agency’s work in this area,” said Gallaudet. The agency is working with the private sector to utilize cloud computing to analyze new sensor data being gathered in the water, and machine learning to identify species.

Finally, Gallaudet noted that people are in fact the most important resource we have in the blue economy. In closing he remarked on the need to promote an ocean-literate workforce and the continued support for ocean science and technology.

SCIENCE OF A CHANGING OCEAN

The next session considered how human and climate impacts are affecting the ocean. Ko Barrett, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Programs and Administration for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, described recent work related to oceans research from the IPCC, an intergovernmental body established over 30 years ago with a mission of producing periodic assessments related to human-induced climate change. Barrett noted that the reports are written in a manner that is policy-relevant but not prescriptive.

The recent IPCC report, titled Global Warming of 1.5°, considers the immediacy of the challenge of a 1.5 degree increase in global temperatures by 2050. The report addressed a wide range of issues, noting that the world’s ocean and cryosphere have been “taking the heat” from climate change for decades. Even in the most remote parts of the Earth, there is evidence of human-caused climate change. The report documents the ways in which the ocean has been a sponge for heat and carbon dioxide, sending a dire message about the need for urgent action to address human-caused climate change. The consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe if action is not taken.

Barrett discussed key components and linkages between water, heat, and carbon dioxide, and the climate-related effects in the oceans and cryosphere (see Figure 2). According to the IPCC report, the global ocean is experiencing sea level rise, marine heatwaves, and loss of ocean heat content, pH, and oxygen. The global mean sea level will rise 15 centimeters and will continue to rise, leading to extreme sea level events.

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FIGURE 2 Cryosphere and ocean changes as a result of 1.5 degree global temperature rise by 2050.
Source: Ko Barrett, NOAA.

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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×

The report concludes that the cryosphere—the frozen water part of the Earth, as defined by NOAA—has and will experience a decline of sea ice, glacier loss, permafrost loss, decreasing snow cover, and a decline in the ice sheet mass (see Figure 2). Due to current global warming, we will continue to experience global sea level rise for decades and centuries to come. Arctic sea ice is declining every month and continues to grow thinner. Small glaciers are projected to lose more than 80 percent of current ice mass by 2100. If global warming is limited to 2 degrees by 2050, around one-third of surface permafrost will melt by 2100; if it continues at its current pace, 70 percent will melt by 2100.

Barrett added that changes in the ocean cause shifts in fish populations, which will reduce the global catch potential. Communities that depend highly on seafood may face risks to nutritional health and food security. Small island developing states are home to 65 million people, and 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones, and are vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding. She noted that despite these dire challenges, the interest of the younger generations in climate change could be powerful driver for future action.

INNOVATION IN MARINE INDUSTRIES

The third session of the meeting convened a panel of four experts to discuss innovation in marine industries, and how both the digital revolution and the growth of “blue” industries are shaping the ocean economy. James Bellingham, Director of the Center for Marine Robotics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, began by noting that the future of ocean research is driven by technology, and that the field is maturing rapidly. According to Bellingham, the majority of ocean exploration today is conducted by robots, and the rate of advancement of marine robotics technology is incredible.

Bellingham noted that the entrepreneurial environment for oceans has exploded. Massachusetts is in a particularly strong position given the robust innovation ecosystem of companies and people in the area with relevant expertise. Many of the 35 local robotics research programs either work on, or cross-pollinate with, marine robotics research. Marine robotics is a source of unique innovation because the undersea environment forces the development of mobile robotic systems capable of operating without human supervision. Bellingham noted the importance of creating an environment that is supportive of these companies, which are part of a new maritime economy.

Bellingham added that ocean science is evolving through technology. Societal drivers of this rapid development include the need for new capabilities to address military needs and climate change. He also argued that the transition from the lab to application is increasingly seen as a bottleneck, which needs to be addressed by policymakers committed to broadening our scientific understanding of the ocean.

Megan Davis, Research Professor in the Aquaculture and Stock Enhancement Program at Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, opened by noting that demand for seafood in the United States and globally has led to the steady growth of aquaculture around the world, with more growth in the industry projected over the next 30 years. Aquaculture has become an essential resource for feeding the planet, though current production is imbalanced. Ninety percent of the world’s aquaculture production happens in Asia; the United States is ranked 16th globally in aquaculture production. This is important to note as the U.S. trade deficit for edible products is currently $15.8 billion. According to Davis, there is a lot of room for growth of the aquaculture industry in the United States.

Aquaculture can be classified by fed species (fish and crustaceans) and non-fed species (mainly bivalves and seaweed). There are several aquaculture production systems in the United States. The majority of production happens in ponds (27 percent); but other methods of production include bottom and off-bottom molluscan production; flow-through raceways; cages and pens; recirculating aquaculture systems; open-ocean aquaculture; and aquaponics. Davis mentioned a recently introduced piece of legislation, the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, which directs the Department of Commerce to establish an Office of Marine Aquaculture within NOAA to coordinate regulatory, scientific, outreach, and international issues related to aquaculture. This legislation is supported by industry and is designed to increase offshore aquaculture in the United States.

Davis discussed the need to increase seafood consumption in the US, particularly given its proven health benefits. Seafood plays a critical role in nutrition and food security, with proven impacts on neurodevelopment for unborn and young children and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. A number of programs are underway to increase U.S. seafood consumption and promote consumer education. The National Seafood Council concept evaluation by the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC), a Federal advisory committee that provides recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries, is currently working to evaluate what NOAA Fisheries can do in their federal role to help increase consumer confidence and consumption of U.S. seafood. This includes gathering information and

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×

advice from the U.S. seafood community on the establishment of an industry-led and funded National Seafood Council under the Fish and Seafood Promotion Act as a mechanism to increase U.S. seafood consumption.

Davis added that there is a strong role for government, universities and industry to work together to help meet future food needs through innovative aquaculture growth in the United States. These partnerships are critical to addressing production efficiency, regulatory streamlining and marine spatial planning, ecosystem services and adaptive strategies, and other key issues.

William Gerwick, Distinguished Professor of Oceanography and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Director of the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, began by discussing the important contribution that oceans make to pharmaceuticals, particularly given the abundance of natural products in drugs over the past several decades. “We have many emerging diseases for which we have few or no effective treatments, so there is a continuing need for drug discovery” stated Gerwick. “The ocean has untapped potential, given the chemistries of the animals are unlike anything we see on land or in terrestrial-aquatic systems.”

Nineteen key drugs have been derived from marine resources (see Figure 3). One of the drugs is derived from a peptide made within the venom of cone snail, which is used to block pain. Four different products currently on the market are derived from marine lipids. Sponge-derived compounds have contributed significantly to the development of anti-cancer and anti-viral drugs—though Gerwick clarified that sponge-related compounds are actually derived from microorganisms living within or in association with the sponge, and not from the sponge itself. Sponges and corals can act as a rich source of compounds because they act as rich hosts for a variety of microorganisms still being studied. Gerwick also explained that a complex compound from marine cyanobacteria has been found to be toxic to cancer cells, but it failed in clinical trials because it was also too toxic for human use. New developments in antibody-drug conjugates, which can deliver “warhead toxins” directly to cancer cells are enabling more targeted, patient-specific therapeutics.

In terms of future developments in marine pharmaceuticals, Gerwick agreed with previous presenters that much value is still to be gained from ocean exploration and sample collection from different environments, including mangroves, coral reefs, and the deep sea. Increasingly genomic and metagenomics technology is being used to sequence certain marine genomes. He also discussed innovations in macromolecular marine biotechnology, including the need to develop new methodologies to accelerate and make more efficient the natural product-based drug discovery process. Some of this innovation can happen by borrowing technologies and tools from other scientific disciplines. Work underway at UC San Diego is using bioinformatics to identify marine cyanobacteria, and facial recognition trained with deep learning to recognize the “face” of a molecule.

Other areas of innovation in marine biotechnology include exploring marine microbiomes, genome mining, new marine enzymes for green chemical biology, and engaging more deeply in natural products research. Gerwick noted that each of these areas of future research engages and depends on a highly diverse and interdisciplinary workforce.

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FIGURE 3 Nineteen approved marine natural products, derivatives, or inspired drugs as of 2020.
Source: William Gerwick, UC San Diego.

Joshua Berger, the Governor’s Maritime Sector Lead and Associate Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce, discussed Washington State’s efforts and commitments related to developing the states’ blue economy. In particular, the state is focusing

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×

on supporting and growing its maritime and ocean economy, the health of marine and ocean ecosystems, and ensuring equitable and resilient communities. Washington’s combined maritime sector impact is valued at $37.8 billion.

Aligned with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Washington has committed to being a world-class, thriving, and sustainable maritime industry by 2050. An advisory council’s work over the last few years developed a framework for matching the state’s goals with the SDGs, focused on decarbonizing maritime electrification; building a hub for innovation in the maritime space; “growing gateways” that provide efficient, clean, and safe places for people in the maritime industry to work; training a diverse workforce to meet the needs of the 21st century; and coordinating a formal cluster organization that builds partnerships within and across sectors related to ocean and maritime activity.

To meet these goals, the states’ multistakeholder planning processes involved learning about other ocean and maritime clusters around the world, which have emerged as organizational entities that enhance competitiveness and collaboration. This learning led to the formation of Washington Maritime Blue, which has had buy-in from industry, research institutions, and public partners, and non-profits since its foundation. The clusters have been successful because of the enthusiasm of its participants and the development of a common vision—Berger noted that some of the innovative work related to the blue economy in the state has been spurred by “co-opetition.

The state also conducted a capital landscape study to determine which type of capital is most appropriate to support a blue economy. The results indicated that government and philanthropic grants (as opposed to venture capital funding) can help de-risk investments, and that clusters, incubators, and accelerators can create vetted and supported pipelines for new deals. The state is also developing and funding accelerator projects to support innovation in the maritime sector. Of 110 applications received from around the world, 11 companies with a range of areas of focus were selected for a four-month program. Other efforts include Blue Forum, which bring groups together to address blue economy challenges and the R&D Pathways for Maritime Energy Solutions, which convened federal agencies to provide an opportunity for discussion around ongoing work.

Berger added that his team is also focusing on workforce issues, in particular to attract a younger and more diverse population. The Youth Maritime Collaborative works to develop an inclusive and diverse youth pipeline and career-connected learning and equity training for youth training providers and employers. This partnership is between service providers, educational institutions, and employers to make maritime jobs an accessible option for low-income youth and youth of color.

THE CHANGING RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT OF THE ARCTIC

During the next session, Victoria Herrmann, President and Director of the Arctic Institute, began by describing the multitude of ways the Arctic research environment is changing because of the convergent social and scientific challenges presented by climate change. Arctic marine fish and wildlife habitats, species distributions, and food webs, all of which are important to Arctic residents, are increasingly affected by retreating and thinning Arctic summer sea ice, increasing temperatures, and ocean acidification. Continued warming will accelerate related ecosystem alternations in ways that are difficult to predict, making adaptation more challenging.

Herrmann noted that Arctic sea ice extent at the end of summer 2019 was tied with 2007 and 2016 as the second lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. The thickness of the sea ice has also decreased, resulting in an ice cover that is more vulnerable to warming air and ocean temperatures. Less ice cover in the Arctic changes marine mammal species’ behavior in regard to hunting, breeding, and pupping. And many of these climate-associated changes have environmental feedbacks—thawing permafrost throughout the Arctic could release an estimated 300-600 million tons of net carbon per year into the atmosphere. Tundra greening continues to increase in the Arctic, particularly on the North Slope of Alaska, mainland Canada, and the Russian Far East. North American Arctic snow cover in May 2019 was the fifth lowest in 53 years of record.

As ice melts in the Arctic, the ocean is becoming more accessible to shipping traffic, oil and gas exploration, seabed mining, and the seafood and biotechnology industries. These economic opportunities are accompanied by lingering uncertainty around navigation and safety. Herrmann noted that four million people call the Arctic home, and these economic opportunities will largely not be shared within these communities. Subsistence activities, culture, health, and infrastructure of the Arctic’s Indigenous peoples and communities are subject to a variety of impacts related to climate change, many of which are expected to increase in the future.

Herrmann also provided an overview of governance issues in the Arctic. The Arctic Council, comprised of member states and indigenous permanent participant organizations, is an intergovernmental operating body designed to convene Arctic stakeholders around issues related to sustainable development and environmental protection. Her-

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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rmann noted that another effect of sea ice melt is the anticipation that non-Arctic observing nation states like China will become interested in Arctic activities, raising geopolitical challenges, though this “scramble” for power in the Arctic has not yet materialized.

The other intergovernmental mechanism relevant to Arctic governance is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s ocean. Under UNCLOS, all countries have sovereignty over their territorial sea, and sovereign rights over the natural resources of the water column and the seabed in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends up to 200 nautical miles. If a nation can provide scientific evidence that its continental shelf extends beyond its EEZ up to 350 nautical miles from its coast, it can also claim sovereign rights to those natural resources as well. In the Arctic, nation states can make claims towards their extended continental shelf. Currently, out of the eight Arctic nation states only five of the states are literal nation states, and four states have made extended continental shelf claims (Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia). The United States is the only non-signatory Arctic nation state to UNCLOS, and consequently it cannot make an extended claim. Becoming a signatory to UNCLOS is a political issue, but one with significant implications for U.S. access to Arctic resources and research opportunities.

Herrmann closed by recognizing that climate impacts in the Arctic are in many cases beyond the tipping point of affecting daily life—residents and citizens in the Arctic are already exposed to the ecosystem effects of warming, which jeopardize their livelihoods and ways of living.

TRANSFORMATIONS OF COASTAL REGIONS AND COMMUNITIES

The final session of the day discussed how to build resilience and security in the face of sea-level rise and ecosystem shifts. Heida Diefenderfer, Earth Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Faculty Fellow at the University of Washington, focused on tidal wetlands as engines of the blue economy. Her presentation synthesized information related to coastal resilience planning, carbon finance, and ecosystem restoration science.

Diefenderfer stated that there are many types of tidal wetlands worldwide such as mangroves and other coastal forests, marshes, and seagrasses that are highly valuable from an economic perspective. Coastal wetlands make up only about 15 percent of natural wetland area globally but deliver an estimated $20.4 trillion a year in economic return, which amounts to 43 percent of the total global ecosystem services from all types of natural wetlands. Diefenderfer discussed how these wetlands contribute to resilience by building land elevation, stabilizing shorelines, and buffering communities and infrastructure against flooding related to storms and sea level rise. In addition, they provide habitats, maintaining biodiversity and coastal fisheries, and are known as ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems because they sequester carbon.

Diefenderfer noted that despite conservation efforts, wetland loss is still occurring at a significant rate, with 35 percent of total global natural wetlands lost since 1970. Globally, vegetated coastal wetlands lose between 0.7–7 percent of their area annually to development. In the United States, West Coast estuary models estimate that about 85 percent of tidal wetlands have been lost, and in Eastern coastal watersheds 59,000 acres of wetlands were lost per year between 1998 and 2004. The Gulf of Mexico coast is losing one football field every 90 minutes.

Large-scale ecosystem restoration programs are already underway on all U.S. coasts and, according to Diefenderfer, blue carbon finance feasibility studies are determining future roles for the economic valuation of wetland carbon storage. The largest market sector in voluntary carbon offsets is forestry and land use, with more than 50 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent purchased in 2018, valued at $171.9 million. New methods for crediting greenhouse gas emission reductions and removals by other land uses such as blue carbon projects are emerging. Significant questions remain within key areas of wetland carbon cycle research. Diefenderfer shared the findings of a collaborative assessment of carbon stocks in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), which revealed that tidal forests in the PNW were a large store of carbon as compared to other coastal wetland ecosystems in the PNW and around the globe. But many interconnected questions remain regarding the environment conditions and processes governing carbon sequestration and how these capabilities should be valued, mainly because of limited and uneven availability of data in the United States and globally.

To address key research needs in the area, Diefenderfer made several recommendations. On a basic level, the use of new technologies and information systems to map the geographic extent of tidal wetlands and measure ecological processes and trends is needed. More research on domestic tidal wetland blue carbon demonstration projects will help to understand and measure carbon sequestration effectiveness. And, simulation models across basic and applied research are necessary to allow for prediction and valuation of benefits, detection of impending tipping points, and minimizing the costs of long-term monitoring.

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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RADM Jon White, CEO and President of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, opened by noting that the ocean contributes significantly to the economy, supporting multiple, beneficial uses including food production; energy and mineral resources; recreation and tourism; transportation of goods and people; discovery of novel medicines; and biodiversity.

White noted that current ocean management challenges include widely dispersed responsibilities among a confusing array of agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. Among the range of stakeholders across government, academia, and companies, there is a shared need for improved and timely access to reliable data and solid scientific information, which can be translated into useful results for decision-makers and community leaders. “There is also a need for a broader understanding among the general public around how the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes impact their lives, and how their lives impact these environments.” White argued. This communication is particularly important as the rate of both natural and human change in coastal communities is dramatic.

White stated that there are a number of overlapping interests related to the oceans—for example, climate change, national security, and food security. “The question becomes, how can we develop the common goals we need to move from relationships to partnerships? A strategic framework engaging government, industry, academia, and philanthropy and informed by science and technology is needed.”

According to White, the United States currently does not have an ocean science strategy. “Now is the time for our nation to use leadership from ocean science and technologists to inform a strategic plan for moving forward.” White also reiterated that diversity in ocean-related fields of study and across marine industries is critically needed, particularly in light of rising sea level. “We have a great opportunity with younger generations to reexamine how to effect change in our coastal communities—will we control this change, or will we be controlled by it?”

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×

DISCLAIMER: This Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was prepared by Jennifer Saunders as a factual summary of what occurred at the meeting. The statements made are those of the author or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants; the planning committee; or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

PLANNING COMMITTEE: Anton Post, Florida Atlantic University; James Bellingham, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Kelly Sullivan, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

STAFF: Susan Sauer Sloan, Director, GUIRR; Megan Nicholson, Program Officer; Lillian Andrews, Senior Program Assistant; Clara Savage, Senior Finance Business Partner; and Cyril Lee, Financial Assistant.

REVIEWERS: To ensure that it meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity, this Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief was reviewed by Mary Barber, RTI International and Alice Hill, Council on Foreign Relations. Marilyn Baker, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, served as the review coordinator.

SPONSORS: This workshop was supported by the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable membership, National Institutes of Health, Office of Naval Research, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

For more information, visit www.nas.edu/guirr.

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25810.

Policy and Global Affairs

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Copyright 2020 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
×
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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Page 8
Suggested Citation:"The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop - in Brief." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25810.
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The Role of Research and Technology in the Changing Ocean Economy: Proceedings of a Workshop–in Brief Get This Book
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Oceans have long been a frontier of opportunity for exploration, scientific understanding, commerce, and trade for the United States. The transformative technologies of the fourth industrial revolution - artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things, biotechnology, advanced materials - are expected to recondition traditional ocean-based industries and enable the growth of new markets prioritizing sustainability. At the nexus of unprecedented environmental change and rapid technology innovation, how should the United States position itself as a leader in the global ocean economy? On February 4 and 5, 2020, the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable convened experts to discuss the importance of cross-sector collaboration and the opportunities for U.S. leadership in the context of a changing ocean and a changing ocean economy. This publication highlights the presentation and discussion of the workshop.

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