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Atlantic Coast Environmental Indicators Consortium

Hans W. Paerl, Richard A. Luettich, Lawrence W. Harding, Edward D. Houde, William C. Boicourt, Michael R. Roman, James T. Morris, Raymond Torres, Charles S. Hopkinson, Mark Fonseca, Judson Kenworthy

Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Univ. of Maryland (C.E.E.S.), Univ. of South Carolina, Marine Biological Laboratory (M.B.L.), NOAA-NOS Beaufort Laboratory

We propose to develop and test broadly-applicable, integrative indicators of ecological condition, integrity, and sustainability across four distinct and representative estuarine systems on the Atlantic coast of the United States. We will focus on the nation's two largest estuarine complexes- Chesapeake Bay (MD/VA) and Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, NC (containing designated Coastal Intensive Site Network--CISNet--sites) on a small estuary; the Parker River, situated in the Plum Island NSF Long-Term Ecosystem Research (LTER) site in Massachusetts; and on a river-dominated system in the southeast Atlantic Bight, the North River Inlet, SC (CISNet site). These systems vary broadly in water residence times, from one year in Pamlico Sound to days in the Parker River and North River Inlet, enabling us to assess the full range of ecosystem responses to external and internal physical/chemical forcings. From north to south, these sites span the Acadian, Virginian, and Carolinean biogeographic provinces. Our index sites are also representative of three primary producer bases (intertidal marsh-Plum Island and North Inlet; plankton dominated-Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound; seagrass dominated-portions of Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound). Although these test sites contain regions in comparatively pristine condition, they are all impacted by man. These index sites are not only well-studied, but also have long-term, ongoing monitoring programs in place. To meet our goal, we have convened scientists with extensive experience in estuarine sciences from several laboratories in the east.

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