CRCP researchers who applied an integrated ecosystem model called Atlantis to Guam’s coral reefs were able to quantify the socioecological costs and benefits of various management scenarios. The resulting decision-support tool identifies strategies to manage food, recreation, coastal protection, and other ecosystem services. The scenario combining fishery and habitat restoration regulations was best at improving ecosystem function and structure (though reef fish catch was less than usual). When the cumulative effects of climate change were included, no scenario prevented a collapse in coral biomass over the next few decades (assuming a business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions scenario).
NCCOS and partners have developed a new method to detect ciguatoxins in fish that does not rely on the typical use of radioisotopes, which are highly regulated and often unavailable in remote tropical regions where ciguatera incidence is high. The new method—a fluorescent receptor binding assay—is nontoxic, nonradioactive, and reduces screening time from 2.5 days to only 3 hours compared to the current radioisotope method. The test also uses commonly available equipment, allowing it to be more easily added to seafood safety monitoring programs. More than 50,000 people suffer from ciguatera fish poisoning each year by consuming fish tainted with ciguatoxins produced by the algae Gambierdiscus, making it the most common form of algal-induced seafood poisoning. The new assay is described in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, and will soon be available as a test kit from SeaTox Research, Inc., a commercial collaborator on the project.
NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System Science Collaborative announces the 2016 Science Transfer Awards, which will provide a total of $267,000 in funding to six projects involving 19 NERRs. Award recipients will find new ways to use reserve-based information, approaches, and techniques that help protect coastal resources and improve coastal management. The needs addressed include enhancing coastal community resilience, improving climate change education, and communicating the status of tidal marsh resilience across the reserve system.
OCS recently created a new nautical chart feature called the zone of confidence or ZOC box. The ZOC shows when data was collected for specific charted areas (since charts are created from data collected throughout the last century or longer ago) so mariners can assess the risk level of navigating in that area. For instance, the ZOC will tell mariners if they are navigating in an area that is using data from Captain Cook in 1778, data acquired by modern sonar, or something in between. The ZOC replaces the current source diagram on large-scale charts. While source diagrams were based on subjective parameters, the new ZOC classifications are derived more consistently, using a combination of survey data, position accuracy, depth accuracy, and seafloor coverage.
The Record of Decision for remediation of the lower 8.3 miles of the Passaic River was issued last month after years of collaboration between federal and state agencies to integrate remediation and restoration at the site. The Passaic River Superfund Site, which is heavily impacted by a variety of contaminants, includes the lower 17.4 miles of the Passaic River and Newark Bay, as well as portions of the Hackensack River, the Kill van Kull, and the Arthur Kill. The remedy will support primary restoration of NOAA trust resources in this section of the river and estuary.
This summer’s Gulf of Maine red tide is predicted to be the smallest observed over the last 11 years, according to researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and North Carolina State University. Caused by blooms of the Alexandrium fundyense alga, the region’s red tides produce a toxin that can accumulate in shellfish, which, in turn, can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in people who eat tainted shellfish. Advance warning of toxic harmful algal bloom (HAB) events enables proactive responses to protect human health and coastal economies, making the region more resilient. Forecasts will be refined by data collected by NCCOS-supported robotic HAB sensors that measure the abundance of Alexandrium cells, and with nutrient sensors deployed by the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS). The forecast is part of a NOAA ecological forecasting initiative that aims to deliver timely and accurate forecasts to coastal resource managers and the public.
Citizen science is a term that describes projects in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions. Volunteers work with scientists to identify research questions, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make new discoveries, develop technologies and applications, and solve complex problems. Several citizen science programs are highlighted online on the ONMS website. Making these volunteer opportunities more visible and readily available is likely to increase the level of participation, enhance ocean and climate literacy, promote conservation efforts, and, ultimately, strengthen the stewardship of special ocean areas.
This week, NGS is testing a gravity-measurement device on an unmanned aircraft out of Manassas, Virginia, as part of its Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum (GRAV-D) project to produce highly accurate height measurements. Test flights will take place in “unmanned mode” with a safety pilot aboard. An unmanned plane can more easily obtain GRAV-D data in remote locations, and has the potential to greatly reduce the costs associated with data collection. Once complete, GRAV-D will provide an estimated $240 million in annual savings from improved floodplain management and an additional $282 million in savings from activities that benefit from more precise elevations, including coastal resource management, construction, agriculture, and emergency planning. Partners include Aurora Flight Services Corporation and Micro-g LaCoste.
Puerto Rico recently approved the designated marine component of the Northeast Ecological Corridor, creating a de facto marine protected area network for coral reefs and seagrass beds stretching northeast for 17 miles from mainland Puerto Rico to Culebra Island. The network falls within NOAA’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island Habitat Focus Area, the only focus area in the Caribbean. The decision was based, in part, on findings from 10 years of ridge-to-reef science and coordination supported by CRCP.
In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) received funding to establish geodetic control at each of its Region 5 wildlife refuges. Each refuge now has high-quality vertical benchmarks connected via geodetic leveling to nearby existing level lines. To help the USFWS ensure that each refuge can take advantage of this investment, NGS provided instruction on modern geodetic techniques and how GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) positioning can be used to extend geodetic control throughout the refuges.
NCCOS researchers supported the 2016 SeaPerch Challenge by serving as judges in a competition held this month in Charleston. SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with resources to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Students build their ROVs from kits of easily accessible, low-cost parts by following a curriculum that teaches basic science concepts with a marine engineering theme. As part of the nationwide competition, middle and high school students presented posters of their projects and entered their ROVs in an aquatic obstacle course.
Cartographic and hydrographic experts recently met with governmental and private industry maritime stakeholders in Anchorage, Alaska. During the one-day workshop, OCS gathered stakeholder input on priorities and needs for the next generation of navigation products for Alaska and the Arctic. The workshop, led by OCS Director Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, was a person-to- person follow-up to two teleconferences last year with the governor’s Arctic Council Alaska Ad Hoc Working Group.
NOAA’s revised Guide for Considering Climate Change in Coastal Conservation is now aimed at a broader coastal management audience and features links to updated tools and climate information. Climate change is altering coastal environments. This guide helps practitioners evaluate how their conservation efforts can endure amid changing conditions, placing communities and natural environments in the best position to adapt. This guide lessens the gap between land conservation theory and practice when considering climate change.
This week, NGS provided on-site training in geodetic leveling river crossing data collection and processing procedures to employees of the North Carolina Geodetic Survey. NGS has recently developed new procedures for surveyors and geodesists to perform leveling surveys across rivers, valleys, or other barriers. A new chapter has been added to the NGS geodetic leveling manual to describe these updated techniques. These new procedures demonstrate NGS’s commitment to addressing the needs of the surveying community by making use of modern and more accurate equipment that is readily available to the widest group of users. This training will enable our partners to extend their vertical control networks across natural barriers, such as rivers or lakes, providing for increased efficiency and cost savings.
Faga'alu Bay, American Samoa, is a U.S. Coral Reef Task Force priority site. Sediment runoff into the bay can place coral health at risk and limited research exists to connect management actions taken in watersheds to downstream impacts in coral reef areas. A new report, produced by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, provides coral reef and coastal managers with baseline information and recommendations needed to evaluate the effectiveness of recent sediment-reduction efforts in Faga`alu Bay. To quantify the effectiveness of these interventions, long-term monitoring of sediment loads and coral community structure will be needed.
CO-OPS has helped the Tulalip Tribe Reservation Community in Washington update their marine boundaries. The shoreline on the Tulalip Reservation is where many ancestral settlements and burial sites are located and where tribal fishing, gathering, cultural activities, and recreation continue to this day. The tribes wanted legally-defensible NOAA tidal datum elevations to protect the use of these tidelands by each of the communities within their reservation. Further details on this work can be found in the recently released report Shoreline Tidal Boundary Project for Tulalip, WA. The report provides technical detail about the associated project and the products derived from the collected water level observations.