Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mapping Estuarine Environments


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 Where fresh water from river systems meet the ocean or an arm of the sea we find estuaries. Estuaries such as much of Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi Sound or Mobile Bay are tremendously productive environments sometimes called "the cradles of the sea". It is in these brackish shallow waters and flooded aquatic and emergent grass beds that most major sport and commercial saltwater fish spend the a major portion of the juvenile segment of their life spans. Sick estuaries make for sick oceans. No doubt most of our existing estuaries around the world ar sick to to some degree. But are they getting better or worse? What does optimum look like? To know that we need historic as well as current data.  Only when we have a viable understanding of the present and past of an estuary's environmental conditions can the regulators make informed decisions related to harvesting from, yet protecting and preserving these critical habitats. 

 There are approximately two thousand recognized estuaries in the United States spread across five identifiable estuary regions; Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico Coast, Pacific Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii. The protection, preservation, and management of the estuaries in these regions are accomplished by a mix of federal and state agencies. The estuaries themselves are studies by a variety of agencies, academic organizations and trade groups. There is a lot of data and its very spread out.  the EPA's Estuary Data Mapper Changes all that. The application allows the researcher to zoom in on a specific estuary and find lots of collated available data from multiple sources. In some cases the system may actually have all available data on a particular system through the date of inquiry, but always lots of data from as many known data sources as are known to the EPA, and that's most such sources. 

 The Estuary Data Mapper application of the EPA was designed as a one -stop-source to aid the work of environmental scientists, environmental managers, non government conservation and environmental organizations, and citizen groups concerned with issues affecting estuaries. 

 Estuary Data Mapper also includes background information on the systems feeding water into the estuary, coastal rivers, tributaries, even watersheds and background geographic data like nearby towns and roads. There is now an Estuary Data Mapper with expanded data sources on such things as atmospheric deposition, nonpoint and point nitrogen sources and where known nitrogen loads. You can read more about the system at the EPA's blog : http://blog.epa.gov/science/2015/01/mapping-estuarine-environments/?hootPostID=b255d5e6c8348bbeb1cb0e5105b90550
 The highlighted links in the text above take you the system itself.

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