Relevance of the National Coastal Assessment Program to Alaska 305(b) Reporting and the Future of Coastal Monitoring in Alaska under the Coastal Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program (AKMAP)
Douglas Dasher and Terri Lomax
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Fairbanks, Alaska
National Coastal Assessment (NCA) efforts in Alaska in 2002 and 2004 resulted in the first significant spatial datasets for evaluating current aquatic ecosystem status in two of the five Alaska coastal biogeographical provinces. In 2006 field work was instigated to assess a third biogeographical province with completion scheduled in 2007. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservations (DEC) is a strong supporter of the NCA approach, utilizing probabilistic surveys to assess the large regions of Alaska’s coastline, but some issues must be addressed, if the program is to remain relevant to the assessment of over half the Nation’s coastline. The size of Alaska’s coastline results in correspondingly large assessment regions that remain a challenge for the existing NCA methodology. NCA uses a multi-tiered sediment triad approach focused on fine grain sediments, but this methodology cannot characterize the status of significant regions of Alaska’s coast due to rocky benthic or arctic habitats. Standardized stressors and indicators used in the NCA “national survey” may not be the most relevant to assessing the status and trends in arctic and sub-arctic coastal ecosystems. The future of NCA in Alaska depends upon design methodology modifications, such as incorporation of stressors and indicators relevant to assessing arctic and sub-arctic ecosystems, and development of functioning partnerships with other federal, state, university and local agencies. Incorporation of the results of the NCA work to date is planned for future 305(b) reports.