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REPP Fiscal Year 2011 Projects

Feasibility Study for Operational Regional Coastal Ecosystem Management Models

Institutions: HydroQual, Inc. (lead), University of Delaware, University of Michigan, Limno-Tech, Inc., University of Maryland, University of Maine

Investigators: James Fitzpatrick (lead), Dominic DiToro, Laurie De Rosa, Donald Scavia, Joseph DePinto, Michael Kemp, Damian Brady

This project gathers, integrates and synthesizes information concerning the needs and desires of various federal, state and regional governance entities for scenario-based and forecast-based modeling tools to help achieve regional forecast-based management goals. The study brings together federal, academic and consultant modelers to draw upon their experiences in the development and application of ecosystem models to assess what protocols, data requirements, model refinements, level of skill assessment, operator experience and costs are required in order to bring these models into an operational mode. With an understanding of regional needs for scenario and forecast models and the requirements to develop, refine, and operate these model, as well as potential associated costs, NOAA's CSCOR managers will be better able to assess the feasibility of bringing some of these regional ecosystem models in-house and to understand the requirements for other models used in resource-based scenario analyses.

Objective: Develop a white paper that can be used by NOAA's CSCOR to help increase the use, acceptability, and sustainability of scenario and forecast models and tools for coastal managers and other users.

Approach: The Project Team (PT) will assemble model scenario and forecast needs from various coastal regions of the country (i.e., west coast, east coast, Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes). This will start with a review of existing documents and results of previous assessments and will be augmented with written and/or verbal interviews with managers or staff of various federal, state or regional agencies/institutions. The PT will also design and participate in a multi-day workshop that will include invited ecosystem model developers, practitioners and users, as well as the CSCOR Project Manager and CSCOR staff. The workshop participants will be informed of regional ecosystem forecast needs, experiences and current capabilities and will be asked to provide information as to the types of models that are available or can be developed to satisfy these needs, the data requirement to drive these models, the required skill assessment or reliability needed and the readiness of these models relative to operational requirements to provide high-quality information to regional water quality and ecosystem managers.

Deliverables: White paper summarizing: regional forecast modeling needs; a summary of available ecosystem modeling tools and associated data requirements, skill assessment metrics, operator experience, and costs; and requirements associated with converting these model tools into operational systems. Also the PT will make presentations at scientific and user meetings such CERF, Coastal Zone, IAGLR or other appropriate scientific or coastal zone management conferences.

Population Connectivity of the Pulley Ridge-South Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem: Processes to Decision-Support Tools

Institutions: Principal Investigators – University of Miami (lead) under the auspices of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies in coordination with the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology; Florida Atlantic University; Florida International University; Florida State University; NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory; Nova Southeastern University; University of Florida; University of Texas at Austin. Collaborators – City University of New York; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center; University of British Columbia; University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Investigators: University of Miami – Robert Cowen (lead), Peter Ortner, Jerald Ault, Andrew Baker, David Die, Felimon Gayanilo, Vassiliki Kourafalou, Jiangang Luo, Christopher Mader, M. Josefina Olascoaga, Marjorie Oleksiak, Claire Paris-Limouzy, Su Sponaugle; Florida Atlantic University – Dennis Hanisak, Sarah Edge, Shirley Pomponi, John Reed, Joshua Voss; Florida International University – Mahadev Bhat; Florida State University – Amy Baco-Taylor, Felicia Coleman, Christopher Koenig; NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory – George Halliwell, Ryan Smith; Nova Southeastern University – Mahmood Shivji; University of Florida – Arnoldo Valle-Levinson; University of Texas, Austin – Luiz Rocha; City University of New York – David Gruber; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Behzad Mahmoudi; NOAA/Southeast Fisheries Science Center – Andy David, Jim Bohnsack, Christopher Gledhill, Christopher Liese; University of British Columbia – Carl Walters; University of North Carolina, Wilmington – Steven Miller.

This project represents a unique collaboration of more than thirty scientists pooling the established expertise within two NOAA Cooperative Institutes: the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) and the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology (CIOERT), as well as the wider Gulf of Mexico scientific and management communities to study the connectivity of the mesophotic coral ecosystems of Pulley Ridge with surrounding shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems.

The coral reef ecosystems of the southeast U.S. are a complex system of deep and shallow reefs stretching along the western, southern and southeastern coasts of Florida. These ecosystems provide habitat, food, and shelter to hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates. They also provide considerable value to humans in the form of economic resources (e.g., fisheries and tourism), aesthetics, and structural buffering of storms and currents along the highly populated southeast Florida coast. Observations of relatively healthy deeper reefs, also referred to as mesophotic coral ecosystems, on Pulley Ridge (60-80 m in depth) off the west coast of Florida have opened up questions as to the ecological role they may play in the replenishment of shallow and other mesophotic coral ecosystems, such as in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.

Objective: The goal of this study is to provide information, on the Pulley Ridge ecosystem and its potential connectivity to other coral ecosystems, to resource managers to enable the proactive development of strategies to manage and protect shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems.

Approach: The planned research spans a breadth of disciplines to conduct studies on the physical characteristics of the region (physical oceanography and biological modeling), the biology and ecology of the resident species (population genetics, population dynamics, and community structure), and the valuation of ecosystem services (e.g., fisheries) that Pulley Ridge provides, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of specific management alternatives (bio-economics).

A unique aspect of this project is an integration of Federal, state, and non-governmental stakeholders into the project to help guide its outputs to ensure their utility for resource managers. Managers and other information users serve an integral role in the project and include representatives from the NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Program, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Regional Office and Southeast Fisheries Science Center, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, and the Nature Conservancy.

Outputs: Outputs from the project will be integrated into a variety of tools for managers, including user-friendly, searchable databases and graphic illustrations of physical, biological and economic information pertinent to the Pulley Ridge-Florida Keys system (e.g., maps of species distribution and species connectivity pathways). Computer software will also be developed to allow resource managers to determine the potential effects of various environmental perturbations and management actions.