Ecosystem Monitoring

Research in this theme focuses on the use and further development of a Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) observing system that supports the data needs of CINAR ecosystem forecast models and addresses NOAA’s Ecosystems Mission Goal. 

The LME has extensive observing-system assets (from ships, fixed platforms and gliders to HF radar and satellite downlinking capabilities) operated by NOAA and other agencies, academic research institutions, and the private sector—often in collaboration with each other. These efforts, both research and operational, provide extensive spatial and time-series data sets, some of which have been sustained while others have or will be discontinued due to lack of funding. Theme activities will include a reassessment of these assets and data sets and will focus on identification, analysis and efficient long-term measurement of key variables for assessing and predicting the impacts of climate change, coastal zone development, natural resource use, and episodic events on the ecosystem. We will address the overarching questions discussed in NOAA’s strategic research plan for 2008- 2012, including: 1) What factors, human and otherwise, influence ecosystem processes and impact our ability to manage marine ecosystems and forecast their future state?  2) What is the current state of biodiversity in the oceans, and what impacts will external forces have on this diversity and how we use our oceans and coasts? 3) What are the causes and consequences of climate variability and change? 4) What improvements to observing systems, analytic approaches, and models will allow us to better analyze and predict the atmosphere, ocean, and hydrological land processes?  Our guidance in addressing these questions will be the research priorities for ecosystems in the NOAA strategic plan and close collaboration with NOAA colleagues tasked with understanding and managing the region’s fisheries and marine resources.

Our primary research efforts will be distributed among three major activities:

A) Development and analysis of key ecosystem variables and ecological indicators in the NES LME.  This activity will bring together the extensive expertise of partner institutions and our NOAA colleagues to review variables presently measured by the LME observing networks and to integrate and analyze observing data for relationships and indicators of ecosystem change. Expected outcomes include: 1) a review of the present state of the LME, how it is changing, and likely indicators of future ecosystem change; 2) improved integration and availability of ocean observations across multiple spatial and temporal scales; 3) identification of data gaps and needs for ecosystem forecasting and documentation of regional change; and 4) development with NOAA partners of decision-support tools that enable improved regional forecasting and management decisions.

B) Evaluation of the existing LME observing system. A major Theme II focus is the development of coordinated, efficient and diverse approaches for monitoring ecosystem health and forecasting ecosystem change in the NES LME. Activities will include evaluation, (e.g., through OSSEs), of the existing observing networks to provide the most efficient spatial and temporal coverage of the key ecological and indicator variables. The expected outcome is an improved observing system network providing information on ecosystem change and advancing understanding of linkages among ecosystem processes and the abundance, distribution, and biodiversity of species.

C) Enabling development of technologies to improve ecosystem monitoring.  This effort is focused on developing new technologies and approaches for observing the NES LME. The technologies include refined remote sensor suites to be deployed on ferries, autonomous underwater vehicles, and moorings. The approaches span physical sensors, as well as optical and acoustic measurements. The CI team also provides expertise in developing cutting-edge genomic/proteonomic/metabolomic methods that offer the potential to describe the ecosystem activity, state and diversity.

These three activities parallel the research undertaken in Theme V, where the focus is on addressing NOAA’s Climate Mission Goal. Clearly, the NE LME observing system serves both goals, and we are planning cross-participation in the Retrospective Analysis and Observing System Assessment activities.

Funded Ecosystem Monitoring Abstracts

  1. Acquisition of a Pressure Housing and Array of Reaction Chambers (Pucks) for the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) - Donald Anderson, WHOI
  2. HabCam Data Processing for Leg 3 of the 2009 Scallop Survey ‐ Scott Gallager, WHOI
  3. Image Analysis Tools for Quantitative Mensuration and Classification of High Resolution Optical Imagery – Hanumant Singh, WHOI
  4. Development of Automated Tools for Underwater Photographic Analysis – Hanumant Singh, WHOI