EPA Ecology Group Makes a Big Splash
More than half of the U.S. population lives near coastal waters, which include estuaries, coastal wetlands, coral reefs, and mangrove forest areas. These critically important habitats provide refuge for a wide variety of aquatic and migratory bird species. With coastal populations increasing by approximately 3,600 people per day, these highly productive and fragile areas need careful management and protection.
To achieve that, the Office of Research and Development and the Office of Water of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produce the National Coastal Condition Report (NCCR), a multiyear series describing the ecological and environmental conditions in U.S. coastal waters. NCCR is currently in the early phases of its third release.
The reports summarize the condition of ecological resources in the coastal waters of the United States and highlight several exemplary federal, state, tribal, and local programs. These programs effectively assess coastal ecological and water quality conditions. All U.S. coastal States contribute to the report, using local scientific expertise to improve the understanding of conditions while quantifying the environmental effects of specific stressors on coastal waters and watersheds.
EPA scientists at the Atlantic Ecology Division (AED), located in Narragansett Rhode Island, manage the National Coastal Assessment (NCA) database. AED researchers are also working on "electronic reporting" to facilitate technology transfer of computational methods for improved state level assessments in the northeastern U.S.
With the help of Atlantic Ecology Division scientists, the third edition of the National Coastal Condition Report will build on the first two editions released in 2001 and 2005. The third edition of the report will use data from the entire U.S. coast, including Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii.
As Hal Walker, a senior scientist working on the project, recently said "We now have a century of baseline measurements that every U.S. coastal community can use in conjunction with more localized data sets to assess the health of their coastal waters."
The 2005 National Coastal Condition Report concluded that the conditions of the nation's coastal waters were in fair condition, essentially the same condition they were when the initial report was released in 2001.
The third edition of the report is scheduled to be released sometime in late 2006.