Discussion 3

Leader: L. Incze
Rapporteur: P. Smith

Possible LTER Network for Georges Bank

Lew Incze led off the discussion by describing the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network as an element of the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). With the goal of understanding both natural and anthropogenic variability in the global environment, this program seeks to document that variability, to conduct focussed studies of important processes, and to develop integrated forecast models. Of the seven interdisciplinary science priorities under USGCRP, three have prominent marine program areas:

The LTER Network in the US is composed of 21 research sites, dedicated to developing long-term information to increase our understanding of the environment. LTER sites provide "research platforms" that: US sites are located in steppe, prairie, forest, tundra and desert environments, but as yet there are no ocean sites. A nearby New England site at Plum Island Sound is dedicated to studying climate change impacts on the trophic structure and productivity in estuaries. With 15 PIs (led by Charles Hopkinson, MBL), this site is a prime example of the "brain trust model", featuring relatively low level funding but a high number of researchers and students. The LTER Network is also strongly linked internationally (ILTER) with 17 participating countries and 13 more interested. Again, all international sites are thus far terrestrial or lacustrine.

With regard to a possible LTER on Georges Bank, Lew pointed out that the funding for such a venture is limited: ~$0.5M/yr, 5-yr funding scenarios, 10-yr total. In that context, he raised questions about the potential scope of such a project, e.g.

Kendric Osgood responded by endorsing an emphasis on developing the assimilative information system, suggesting it would represent a significant advancement in support of management and policy decision-makers. Lew added that for routine monitoring of the Bank, it is safe to assume that NOAA will maintain its status quo over the next 5 years with regard to the type and frequency of measurements:

Jeff Runge then stated that complementary information would be available from the Canadian Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP), which is presently maintaining, among other things, a series of seasonal hydrographic sections and biweekly fixed stations (including hydrographic and biological sampling) in the Atlantic Canadian coastal zone. Prominent among these are the Halifax, Cape Sable and Cabot Strait sections, and fixed stations off Halifax (Stn 2), St. John's, Nfld. (Stn 27), and St. Andrews, NB (Prince 5).

Next Lew invited Ken Foote to describe the Living Marine Resources (LMR) Inventory, an initiative, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation, which will be conducting a 2-yr pilot project (1 January 2002-31 December 2003) in the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank region as part of a global census of marine life. The goal of this project is to survey and identify that total range of organisms in the Gulf, from microscopic to zooplankton, fish and marine mammals and birds. Ken described the major challenges to the success of such a survey as:

As a lead up to the Gulf of Maine census, a planning process is underway to identify the precise interests of and secure commitments from the research community, to determine observational and sampling requirements of the program, and to develop operational plans. Ken invited participation in the census and a possible connection to the LTER planning and/or execution.

In the ensuing discussion, several major issues surrounding the establishment of the Georges Bank LTER were explored. Because of the low funding level, Charlie Miller suggested that the best use of the resources would be to support a "central coordinator" to organize and coordinate various research efforts on the Bank; to collect, archive, and disseminate ecosystem data; and to act as a central source for information. Chuck Greene suggested that such a function might be in line with Phase IV recommendations for the post-GLOBEC period. Ann Bucklin pointed out that the role of a "coordinator" should include facilitating public access to a wide range of data sets and focussing attention on the production of consumer-oriented syntheses.

Another suggestion for the use of LTER funds was to augment the present NOAA sampling program. Dave Mountain confirmed that the routine monitoring program does not include the GLOBEC broad-scale protocols, e.g. there is no vertically-stratified sampling, no fine mesh, etc. He also stated that NOAA may not be reliable for continued monitoring other than for fish. Ted Durbin interjected that more than that is needed to determine how the various populations in the ecosystem are responding to changes. As a possible compromise on this issue, Lew Incze suggested that it might be possible to augment the NOAA cruises with just a few selected "monitoring" stations at which a more comprehensive set of observations could be gathered. This philosophy has been adopted by DFO in the design of the AZMP.

Mike Fogarty described proposed Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) plans to build on Georges Bank GLOBEC results including:

Dan Lynch next confirmed that he has received assurances of funding for 3 years in order to transfer the Dartmouth data-assimilative model to NMFS for the production of ocean nowcasts, and possibly forecasts, in near-real time. To accomplish this, the model requires data assimilation, extension of the domain to include the Scotian Shelf, and a special treatment for the shelf break. Elaborating on these requirements, Dan stated that in the wider domain, real-time monitoring of current, hydrography, and bottom pressure was required along a section from Cape Sable to the Northeast Peak, on the southern flank of Georges and in Great South Channel. Single stations were also required off the mouth of Northeast Channel and in the deep inner basins of the Gulf (Jordan, Wilkinson). Dan especially emphasized the need for fast, reliable communications, which are the main bottleneck in the present GLOBEC system.

Peter Wiebe indicated that one potential source of real-time data is fishing vessels (presently two) which have been outfitted for collection and hourly reporting of ecosystem variables under a partnership program, sponsored by NOPP. For the time being, data collected by fishermen will be distributed from a server administered by Peter and Bob Groman at WHOI. Peter and Ann Bucklin are presently collaborating in this program. Also, there is a related project funded at $2M for FY2000 between fishermen and researchers, called the Northeast Consortium (University of New Hampshire, University of Maine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). This is for cooperative research and development of selective fishing gear and the development of programs to utilize commercial fishing vessels in oceanographic research. Finally, the Northeast Regional Council received $4M for collaborative interactions among fishermen, commercial businesses, and researchers. Next year's funding for this project is expected to be $15M.

During the course of the conversation, several other important points were made, including Bob Beardsley's suggestion that CLIVAR researchers are also interested in long-term measurements and nowcasts, and hence might be willing to share the burden of funding monitoring. Lew Incze also thought that it would be worthwhile to explore connections to NOOS. The session ended with a suggestion that these discussions be continued during an informal meeting at the AGU/ASLO in January.