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Estimating the Condition of Gulf of Mexico Estuaries: National Coastal Assessment and National Estuary Program

Virginia D. Engle, Lisa M. Smith, Linda C. Harwell, J. Kevin Summers

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ORD/NHEERL, Gulf Ecology Division, 1 Sabine Island Dr., Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico have been monitored since 1991 to determine the condition of water, sediment, and biota. More recently, through the National Coastal Assessment (NCA), U.S. EPA has provided a comprehensive estimate of the condition of U.S. estuaries, including a regional assessment of Gulf of Mexico estuaries. State-wide, regional, and national estuarine condition was estimated using common ecological indicators and employing a probabilistic survey design. Since 2000, through cooperative agreements with U.S. EPA, each Gulf state has monitored the condition of its estuaries during the summer using standard protocols for measuring water quality, collecting samples, conducting laboratory analyses, and ensuring quality control. Supplemental monitoring has also occurred in Gulf estuaries that are part of the National Estuary Program (NEP). We have treated these NEP estuaries as a subpopulation of Gulf of Mexico estuaries. In this presentation, we compare estimates of estuarine condition derived from National Coastal Assessment data to estimates derived from data collected only from the National Estuary Program estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. Our objective is to determine how well NEP estuaries represent the condition of Gulf of Mexico estuaries.

Keywords: estuary, condition, National Coastal Assessment, National Estuary Program

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