Weekly News: June 2006
NOAA is working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas A&M University Center for Coastal Studies to support the statewide seagrass monitoring program. Existing digital camera imagery, originally collected for the National Agriculture Imagery Program, is being used to create maps of seafloor bottom, or benthic, habitats. The mapping process will use semi-automated methods and will be completed by private industry. The seagrass monitoring program in Texas will use these benthic maps to help locate, monitor, and protect seagrass beds. The first phase of this project covers Corpus Christi Bay, Redfish Bay, Upper Laguna Madre, Baffin Bay, and Aransas and Copano Bays (which include the newest National Estuarine Research Reserve – Mission-Aransas NERR). The team recently collected over 400 field signature points to assist in the spectral discrimination of algae, seagrass, and oyster reefs. For more information, contact Bill.Stevenson@noaa.gov.
The Estuarine Reserves Division has published the “Research and Monitoring Plan (2006-2011)” for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), to guide system-wide research efforts for the next five years. The plan describes the current state of NERRS research and monitoring activities, identifies five research priority areas, and outlines strategies for achieving the system’s research goals, including collaborations with other NOAA units. The broad research priorities discussed in the report include Habitat and Ecosystem Coastal Processes, Anthropogenic Influences on Estuaries, Habitat Conservation and Restoration, Species Management, and Social Science and Economics. The plan is available on line at http://nerrs.noaa.gov/pdf/Research_Monitoring.pdf. For more information, contact Susan.White@noaa.gov.
In collaboration with partners from the Stevens Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services successfully deployed a 25MHz high-frequency surface current mapper (HF-SCM) in Lower New York Bay. The deployment of these devices complimented several other HF-SCMs already operated by the two universities. Operational sites at Breezy Point, Great Kills National Park, and Sandy Hook measure surface currents at the mouth of Lower New York Bay and the Hudson Canyon. The new installation occurred at Bayshore Waterfront Park in Middletown, New Jersey. This installation will expand existing coverage to provide higher resolution surface current maps of the entrances to heavily-trafficked navigation channels in Raritan Bay and the Hudson River. Real-time surface current vector map data can be viewed on Rutgers’ Coastal Ocean Observation Lab Web site at: http://marine.rutgers.edu/cool/codar/real-time/archiveviewer_sr.php. Data will also be provided to the high frequency radar national server being launched by the National Data Buoy Center. This work is a component of a larger Integrated Ocean Observing System project to develop a suite of interactive Web-based products derived from observational data in New York Harbor. For more information, contact Pat.Burke@noaa.gov.
On June 15, President George W. Bush announced that the Administration will designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a National Monument. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument will be the world's largest marine protected area and consist of approximately 140,000 square miles of a remote predator-dominated coral reef ecosystem in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Regulations within the area will prohibit all commercial activities that involve the take of resources, including all fishing. The area will be set aside for protection, research, education, and native Hawaiian cultural practices and will managed by NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in close cooperation with the State of Hawaii. For more information, contact Ed.Lindelof@noaa.gov.
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science have developed a spatial analysis tool that balances scientific and societal factors and identifies best potential areas within Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary to be used exclusively for scientific research. Designation of a research-only area within the sanctuary, which is located off the coast of Georgia, is currently under consideration by the National Marine Sanctuary Program. The results of this analysis will be used by the sanctuary staff to communicate options for research-only areas to constituents. The tool, which is transferable to other regions, considers locations throughout the sanctuary and identifies areas that have specific characteristics. These characteristics include: 1) a large number and diversity of bottom types to fulfill research needs; 2) a large number of prior research sites, to serve as a baseline for comparison with future studies; and 3) as few preferred bottom fishing sites as possible, to minimize displacement of users. The analysis balanced the characteristics for several area shapes and sizes, and resulted in identification of many options for research-only areas. For more information, see http://ccma.nos.noaa.gov/ecosystems/sanctuaries/grays_boundary.html, or contact Matt.Kendall@noaa.gov.
As its fifth anniversary approaches, researchers have found confirmation that the Tortugas ecological reserve, part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is fulfilling its goal of protecting the region's marine life. Encompassing over 150 square nautical miles in two sections, the Tortugas reserve is the largest of the sanctuary's network of 24 areas set aside for special protection. Tortugas North protects the extensively deep coral reefs of Tortugas Bank and Sherwood Forest while Tortugas South protects Riley's Hump, a low profile reef that is a spawning site for a range of fish and other marine organisms. Studies indicate that the numbers and sizes of commercially and recreationally important species of fish and other marine life within the Tortugas ecological reserve have been increasing since July 2001, when the reserve was designated as a "no take" zone. Improvements in the reserve's fish populations may help sustain fish stocks in the Keys and further north, as more and larger fish produce larvae that are carried away from the reserve on ocean currents. Adult fish may also move to areas outside the reserve as competition for space increases within; these fish then become available to the fishery, an effect known as "spillover." For more information, contact Cheva.Heck@noaa.gov.
On Tuesday, June 13, more than 100 volunteers from NOAA joined students from Congressional Schools of Virginia and Sligo Elementary School to restore the Chesapeake Bay as part of the third annual NOAA Restoration Day event. Participants planted underwater bay grasses, stabilized the shoreline with native plants, seeded an offshore oyster reef, monitored water quality, sampled fish and invertebrates, and included demos of innovative restoration techniques by the National Geodetic Survey and the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. The activities were part of the Chalk Point oil spill restoration effort and took place in Trent Hall, Maryland. For more information, contact: Alison.Hammer@noaa.gov or visit the NOAA Restoration Day Web site: http://restorationday.noaa.gov/.
A National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science scientist recently reported that nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere is increasing and that the chemical form of that deposition is shifting towards ammonium in coastal North Carolina. The ecological impact of atmospheric deposited nitrogen, and its importance to the nitrogen budget of nutrient-sensitive estuaries, is a critical piece of information required by coastal managers to develop strategies to reduce nutrients in estuaries. This nitrogen contributes up to 40 percent of the total new nitrogen input to coastal ecosystems and may lead to algal blooms, shifts towards harmful/toxic species, and increased low oxygen events.For more information, contact Dave.Whitall@noaa.gov.
Representatives from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in North America met in Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada to proceed with development of a pilot marine protected area (MPA)-based monitoring program that includes biophysical, social, and governance indicators. The pilot would use existing MPA program monitoring capabilities, but link them for the first time across the three nations. A draft synopsis of MPA monitoring programs in the Baja to Bering region was prepared by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The MPA Center will work with the Department of the Interior to consult with NOAA and Interior MPA programs on next steps, including use of “sister sites” from among the MPA clusters being formed under the U.S. Ocean Action Plan. For more information, contact Joseph.Uravitch@noaa.gov.
According to a recent inventory of rescued corals in the nursery at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center docks in Truman Harbor, this year the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has rescued a total of 1,629 corals from seawalls in Key West Harbor. More than 1,400 corals are being held in the dockside nursery. The remaining corals were donated for research to MOTE Marine Lab, the University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Florida International University. The corals will be used for restoration, research, or offshore aquaculture nurseries. Coral communities in the Florida Keys are displaced and injured as a result of anthropogenic (human) activities, such as nearshore or coastal construction projects, dredging, and vessel groundings. Corals must be rescued or relocated as a result of these human activities, and temporary, if not permanent, holding areas are needed by resource managers so that the corals may eventually be applied to beneficial-use projects. The sanctuary is partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and aquaculture experts to establish "coral nurseries" in nearshore waters, in an effort to harbor corals until they can be used for restoration of injured areas or for scientific research. For more information, contact Harold.Hudson@noaa.gov.
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science presented preliminary results from a study that is examining the relationship between land use, environmental factors, and levels of public health pathogens and fecal pollution indicator organisms in water and oysters. Early findings indicated that levels of bacteria, including fecal coliforms, enterococci, and coliphages, were higher at the headwaters of tidal creek systems and that most of the fecal pollution was of animal origin. The presence of human-specific pathogen Norovirus, however, suggested some human influence in the tidal creek systems. These findings will assist environmental managers in understanding factors controlling the levels of bacterial and other public health pathogens in estuaries and may lead to better management options. For more information, contact Jan.Gooch@noaa.gov.
NOS scientists recently contributed expertise in remote sensing and molecular-based harmful algal bloom (HAB) detection methods during a workshop held in Cheju, South Korea, on the fish-killing HAB species, Cochlodinium. The information exchange that occurred during the workshop will help forecast and reduce the economic impacts of the often devastating annual blooms of this species. In addition to summarizing progress on research, management, and identification of topics for future investigation, the workshop outcome raises these blooms as an emerging global HAB problem. In U.S. coastal waters, for example, Cochlodinium can form dense blooms. For more information, contact Greg.Doucette@noaa.gov.
During May 20-24, the National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) partnered with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Resources to conduct the archaeological survey and mapping of a shipwreck known as the "Brick Wreck," in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, near Marathon. The information gathered from the survey will be used to help identify the wreck and determine its archaeological significance. The site has been called the "Brick Wreck" because of the remnants from a cargo of bricks the ship was carrying before being salvaged. It is possible that the bricks were destined for use in the construction of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. The project will continue through next week. For more information, contact John.Broadwater@noaa.gov.
A study co-sponsored by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the United States Geological Survey, through the Long-term Estuary Assessment Group program, concluded that exposure of brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus) to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) can increase their susceptibility to hypoxia (low oxygen) stress. PAHs are chemical compounds formed by incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as wood, coal, and diesel. Researchers at Nicholls State University found that the PAH naphthalene cut down the brown shrimp’s capacity to regulate oxygen by more than a half, resulting in an accelerated response to hypoxia stress. Brown shrimp, the most profitable commercial fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, are exposed to several types of potential human-induced stressors. Two of these stressors are low-oxygen conditions linked to nutrient loading from the Mississippi River system and PAH contaminants produced from gas and petroleum operations along the northern Gulf continental shelf. For more information, contact Alan.Lewitus@noaa.gov.
At the recent Coastal Society 20th International Conference, NOAA's Coastal Services Center highlighted several innovative solutions for coastal problems, including a new Web site explaining social science applications and resources to integrate coastal and ocean observations into management decisions. Additional presentations included tools for coastal resource and emergency managers to use in hazard mitigation. Related efforts included the Coastal Storms Program and recovery planning for coastal Louisiana. The Center also discussed its Wai’anae, Hawaii, community-based resource management tool and the new digital legislative atlas for the Gulf of Mexico. For more information on these products, contact Donna.McCaskill@noaa.gov.
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