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Monitoring the Condition of Large Marine Ecosystems of the United States

Donald J. Cobb 1, Henry A. Walker 1, Jerome Prezioso 2, Jonathan A. Hare 2, John E. O’Reilly 2, Jeffrey Hyland 3 and Kevin D. Friedland 2

1 U S. Environmental Protection Agency, ORD, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory,
Atlantic Ecology Division, Narragansett, Rhode Island
2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service,
Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Narragansett, Rhode Island
3 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science,
Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston, South Carolina

The Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program’s (EMAP) National Coastal Assessment (NCA) program was implemented in the year 2000 with goals to:

  1. assess the condition of the Nation’s estuarine waters,
  2. determine reference conditions for studies on ecological responses to stressors, and
  3. help build infrastructure in States and EPA Regions.

This seven year monitoring effort (2000-2006) utilized randomized, probabilistic sampling designs covering the entire estuarine area of each coastal state and consistent sampling and analytical methods to collect data on a variety of ecological health indicators. Data from these surveys help states assess the condition of their estuarine resources, and can be aggregated to assess Regional, biogeographical, and National levels (e.g. National Coastal Condition Report II). These data also provide the baseline against which future changes in the ecological conditions in estuaries can be measured. Partnerships were instrumental in the success of the program.

A related collaborative monitoring effort has been implemented in the offshore waters of the US coast, as part of a 5-year NOAA/EPA National Coastal Assessment Partnership established in 2005. To date, probabilistic surveys have been conducted in the California Current, Gulf of Mexico, Southeast US Continental Shelf and Northeast US Environmental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). Some of these LMEs have not been extensively sampled for decades. A suite of environmental indicators similar to those in the estuarine effort were measured, and comparable analytical methodology utilized, which may allow for comparisons of conditions among the U.S. LMEs, continental shelf and estuarine waters.

Keywords: National Coastal Assessment (NCA), Partnerships, Ecological Condition, Large Marine Ecosystems, Ecological Indicators, Probability Surveys

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