Assessing the Ecological Condition of Estuaries and Streams
The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 305(b) directs states to assess the overall quality of the waters within their state, determine whether that quality is changing over time, identify problem areas and management actions necessary to resolve those problems, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of CWA programs. EPA needs the ability to assess and track risks to ecosystems. In particular, to successfully meet CWA requirements, states and tribes need tools to monitor, maintain, and restore their ecological resources. However, less than half of all waters in the U. S. are currently assessed and the monitoring that is done is not coordinated among states. Each state uses its own methods and sampling designs. Therefore, data from different states cannot be compared and regional and national assessments of condition are not well supported scientifically.
The primary goal of AED's condition research is to build the scientific basis, and the local, state, and tribal capacity, to monitor for the status and trends in the condition of the Nation's aquatic ecosystems, initially focusing on estuaries and streams. The foundation of the Agency's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) approach to monitoring condition is a statistical (probability based) sampling framework that provides the basis for estimating resource extent and condition, for characterizing trends, and for representing spatial pattern, all with a known level of confidence. Within this monitoring framework, condition is measured by sampling ecological indicators that reflect the ecosystems' biological, chemical and physical attributes. EMAP primarily uses biological indicators as integrators of stressors acting on a system. EMAP typically conducts this research in specific geographic areas to reduce the scientific uncertainties associated with the design and indicators as well as to engage and transfer the technology to the states and tribes, who will hopefully incorporate this approach into their base programs.
The focus of AED's Ecological Condition research is to:
Test and demonstrate the EMAP approach nationally in diverse areas
to ensure applicability and establish the statistical variability of the
Determine the ability of the EMAP indicators and design to detect changes and trends in the condition of stream and estuarine ecosystems.
Develop new and better indicators of condition, if needed.
Demonstrate the efficacy of the EMAP approach to state, tribal and local agencies, and build their capacity to develop and analyze information from statistical monitoring designs.
Improve information storage and transfer to optimize the available information from the EMAP monitoring approach