Atlantic Slope Consortium

SERC is part of the Atlantic Slope Consortium (ASC) that has recently received major funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop indicators that can be used to assess aquatic ecosystems within the coastal zone. The consortium is one of four that has been funded nationally by EPA to conduct these large-scale multidisciplinary projects on coastal indicators.

The ASC is led by Robert Brooks at Pennsylvania State University and includes principal investigators from SERC, Virginia Institute of Marines Sciences, East Carolina University, Environmental Law Institute and FTN Associates. Five SERC scientists will participate in the study. Dennis Whigham will lead the SERC team and will focus on wetlands. Anson Hines will lead the effort to develop indicators for subtidal estuarine habitats. Pete Marra will focus on birds as indicators of ecological conditions. Don Weller and Tom Jordan will collaborate on watershed related aspects of the study and Don's Ecological Modeling and Spatial Analysis Laboratory will support all of the groups.

SERC will focus on watersheds and sub-estuaries that border the Chesapeake Bay (map). Other consortium members will conduct similar studies on Delaware Bay, and Albermarle-Pamlico River watersheds in North Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and New York.

The project has three objectives:

1. To develop and test ecological and socioeconomic indicators of aquatic resource conditions. In addition to collecting field data, the team will also use already existing data to develop models that will be used to predict the responses of plant and animal indicators to human stresses.

2. To understand the consequences of the cumulative impacts of human activities on attributes of natural ecosystems at small (e.g., individual ecosystems) and large scales (e.g., groups of ecosystems that are linked by water).

3. To develop a list of indicators that can be used to predict or monitor the impacts of human activities within the coastal zone.

To accomplish these broad objectives, consortium participants will focus on the two major components of coastal ecosystems, estuaries and watersheds. Another group of scientists will consider cross-cutting socioeconomics factors. The four-year project will include field research but there will be a major emphasis on using spatial data that can be evaluated by models and GIS technology.

To follow the development of the project, return to the website from time to time as we will include results of SERC's efforts and links to other components of the project.