Interfaces with Other National Science and Technology Council Committees and Subcommittees
Federally supported science in the coastal ocean and Great Lakes is performed for many reasons other than the management of water resources and maintenance of healthy coastal ecosystems (i.e., the goals of the Water Subcommittee). Other scientific activities are conducted for reasons of national defense, natural resource management, global climate change prediction, and protection of life and property, as well as simply to advance basic science. Because this research also contributes to improving the scientific understanding of coastal ecosystems and thus to Water Subcommittee goals, it is important to recognize the importance of such research. Significant coastal science activities are included under the programs being examined by other subcommittees of the Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources Research (CENR) and committees of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) (see Figure 1). These will be considered briefly here to provide a more complete picture of the coastal science carried out under the sponsorship of the federal government.
As discussed in Chapter 2, global climate change may be influenced by processes in coastal ecosystems and the resulting climate changes may greatly affect coastal ecosystems, by rising sea level, changing river discharges and coastal currents, and increased storm frequency (OTA, 1993). A number of research and monitoring programs that are included in the U.S. Global Change Research Program (CENR, 1994b) address coastal waters. These include the:
Global Ecosystems Dynamics Program, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and seeks to understand how populations and food chains in the sea may be affected by climate change;
the U.S. Joint Global Ocean Flux Study, which is primarily sponsored by NSF and addresses the flux of carbon in the oceans;
the Department of Energy's Ocean Margins Program, which aims to quantify the processes and mechanisms that affect the cycling, flux, and storage of carbon and other biogenic elements at the land-ocean interface;
the NSF-sponsored Land-Margin Ecosystem Research program;
Department of Interior activities, including those of the National Biological Survey on the impacts of global change on coastal lands and ecosystems, and studies of the U.S. Geological Survey that focus on biogeochemical exchanges between terrestrial systems, aquatic systems, and the atmosphere; and
aspects of the Earth Observing System of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In addition, other global change studies, such as the Global Energy and Water Experiment assessments of the energy budget and hydrological cycle of the Mississippi River watershed, have obvious implications to understanding changes in the availability and quantity of water reaching the coast.
BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM DYNAMICS
The CENR Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics Subcommittee is addressing a broad goal: ''to ensure the sustainability of the ecological systems and processes that support life on Earth and provide the goods and services necessary for human life, opportunity, and well being. This includes minimizing the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems as well as the restoration of ecosystems as appropriate" (CENR, 1994b).
In a recently completed report on biological diversity in marine systems (NRC, in press), a National Research Council (NRC) committee proposes an integrated, regional-scale research strategy to pursue five fundamental objectives, all of which have implications to coastal ecosystem integrity:
"to understand the patterns, processes, and consequences of changing marine biological diversity by focusing on critical environmental issues and their threshold effects, and to address these effects at spatial scales from local to regional and at appropriate temporal scales;
to improve the linkages between the marine ecological and oceanographic sciences by increasing understanding of the connectivity between local, smaller-scale biodiversity patterns and processes, and regional, large-scale oceanographic patterns and processes that may directly impact local phenomena;
to strengthen and expand the field of marine taxonomy through training, the development of new methodologies, and enhanced information dissemination and to raise the standard of taxonomic competence in all marine ecological research;
to facilitate and encourage the incorporation of (1) new technological advances in sampling instrumentation, experimental techniques, and molecular genetic methods; (2) predictive models for hypothesis development, testing, and extrapolation; and (3) historical perspectives (geological, paleontological, archeological, and historical records of early explorations), in investigations of the patterns, processes, and consequences of marine biodiversity; and
to use the new understanding of the patterns, processes, and consequences of marine biodiversity derived from this regional-scale research approach to predictions of the impacts of human activities on the marine environment."
All of these objectives, except that dealing with marine taxonomy, are related in one form or another in the scientific priorities recommended in this report. Only the organization and framing of the respective recommendations differ.
RESOURCE USE AND MANAGEMENT
The CENR Resource Use and Management Subcommittee has as its vision the sustainable management and use of our natural resources to provide goods and services in a manner that it is compatible with environmental goals and enhances our health, welfare, and prosperity (CENR, 1994a). Implicit in that vision is linkage among resource exploitation, environmental quality, and ecosystem integrity. At this interface are the issues of the effects of overexploitation of fishery resources, the harvesting techniques themselves, and urbanization of coastal environments. Also, oil, gas, and mineral extraction may have undesirable effects on habitats ranging from coastal wetlands to the open continental shelf.
The CENR Natural Disasters Subcommittee has as its vision the reduction of loss of life, property damage, and economic disruption by natural hazards (CENR, 1994a). Significant among these hazards are storms that threaten coastal settlements and vessels and the longer-term erosion of land and property. As discussed in Chapter 3, improved coastal observation and prediction systems (NOAA, 1993a; NRC, 1994d) would contribute to this reduction in the loss of life and property but would also be very useful for ecosystem protection and living resource management.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC SCIENCES
The CENR Social and Economic Sciences Subcommittee seeks a better understanding of the relationships between humans and their environment and the social and economic consequences of both policies and environmental changes (CENR 1994a). This is important for predicting environmental changes more accurately, developing mitigation policies, and facilitating adaptation to environmental changes. Such social and economic science should have strong links to the natural science discussed here. For example, developing more realistic economic valuation must rely on a better understanding of the services and resources actually provided by coastal ecosystems (NRC, 1994b).
The U.S. Navy has conducted a reappraisal of its ocean science research needs following the collapse of the Soviet naval threat and proliferation of regional conflicts. It now plans to place greater emphasis on the oceanography and meteorology of the coastal zone. This is undoubtedly a significant planning factor for the NSTC Committee on National Security.
The NRC (1993b) has identified promising coastal research topics related to physical processes that are of relevance to the Navy: upwelling fronts, bottom boundary layer dynamics, vertical turbulent mixing processes, surface wave propagation across the continental shelf; responses to cold-air outbreaks, estuary-shelf coupled circulation, circulation and morphology in the surf zone, and small-scale sediment dynamics. It also identified opportunities for model development and evaluation and for development of instrumentation, technology, and facilities. Virtually all of the physical processes identified are also of significance to the function of coastal ecosystems. As the Department of Defense seeks, at the same time, dual use of its science and technology, new prospects are emerging for partnerships embracing science that is of importance to both national security and "ecosystem security." The Navy also has a major research program regarding the environmental quality at and near its bases.
HEALTH, SAFETY, AND FOOD
The NSTC Committee on Health, Safety, and Food must consider an enormous array of issues and a substantial portion of the federal government's research and development programs. Thus, it is unlikely that it will look in much depth at the problems of human pathogens and toxic chemicals in coastal waters and seafood. There are obvious linkages between water availability and quality and the pathogens and toxicants that might pose a risk to human health.
Environmental responsibility requires much better understanding of the complex interrelationships among components of the biosphere and among human activities and the world around us. We must carry out the necessary fundamental research and develop appropriate technologies to detect and correct environmental problems, to manage natural resources, and to sustain the environment. (Clinton and Gore, 1994)
A strong commitment to fundamental science, initiated by individual investigators or collaborators, must be an essential ingredient in the U.S. coastal science strategy. Fundamental studies supported by NSF have contributed greatly and directly to improved management of coastal ecosystems. Without this fundamental research, which provides an understanding of ecosystem processes, meaningful interpretation of the results of monitoring and other observational efforts cannot be made, nor can ecosystem models be constructed properly. Moreover, advancement in fundamental knowledge in such strategically important fields as landscape ecology, geochemical tracers, biodiversity, molecular approaches to assessing marine ecosystem function, and the physics of shallow water systems will be critical to the success of more directly applied scientific activities.
OVERALL COORDINATION OF COASTAL SCIENCE
The NSTC has adopted an approach to the nation's science planning that is comprehensive (i.e., all science activities are considered within the hierarchical NSTC committee structure) rather than selective, as was the approach used by the former Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET). Under FCCSET, the Subcommittee on U.S. Coastal Ocean Sciences (SUSCOS) was one of a small number of subcommittees working on particularly timely scientific issues. SUSCOS considered the gamut of science within the coastal ocean and Great Lakes. Under the NSTC approach, virtually every scientific program or need in the federal government is the responsibility of at least one subcommittee, and coastal science is disaggregated by issue—that is, environmental quality, biodiversity, natural disasters, resource use, and national defense. For example, the science serving national security interests will be considered collectively under the NSTC Committee on National Security, but it is not clear how Navy research in the coastal ocean will be integrated and coordinated with complementary coastal research aimed at environmental protection or fisheries management, supported by other agencies and under the purview of other NSTC entities.
Conversely, the combined consideration of freshwater resources and coastal
marine environments under the aegis of the Water Subcommittee facilitates the development of a larger view of coastal ecosystems, that includes watershed processes and the coastal ocean. This should help bridge a chasm between scientists who specialize in freshwater and terrestrial systems and coastal scientists and provide critical synthesis needed to reduce the impacts of land-based activities and protect ecosystems. But there remains a significant need to plan and coordinate scientific activities in coastal waters across the issue sectors. The committee recommends that CENR ensure that there is effective integration and coordination of coastal science among the contributing CENR subcommittees and NSTC committees.