The Northeast U.S. region includes ecologically and economically rich ecosystems that span from Long Island Sound to the Canadian border in the eastern Gulf of Maine. Climate change, living resource harvesting, and increasing human populations are altering the structure and function of these ecosystems. Ecosystem changes are not only threatening the sustainability of marine and human communities, but also managers who must make difficult decisions about how to manage marine resources under novel conditions with high degrees of uncertainty.
To help protect marine and human communities, and support resource managers in the face of these changes, we are developing an adaptive sentinel monitoring program. The Integrated Sentinel Monitoring Network (ISMN) watches for key ecosystem changes and then informs researchers, managers, and the public about the status of the region's rich ecosystems and their vulnerabilities. It will also support an integrated, ecosystem-based management framework for adaptive responses to ecosystem changes.
ISMN aims to collect observational data where there are gaps for key ecosystem variables, serve as an access portal for other regional observational datasets, and facilitate integrated interpretation of ecosystem changes. Observational goals include broad monitoring for biodiversity change that may or may not be predictable, but also sentinel monitoring. Sentinels are key ecosystem variables that provide mechanistic understanding of ecosystem functions and responses to environmental change when known. A primary goal is to build the ISMN into a regional coordinating center for ecosystem data that have been quality controlled and can be accessed using international standards. Leveraging the NERACOOS data management system, the GMRI Ocean Data Products team will develop a data portal for integration and access to projected data. The priority effort will integrate long-term and new ecosystem and environmental data sets (e.g., mesozooplankton, chlorophyll a, microplankton, environmental DNA, gelatinous zooplankton, North Atlantic right whale distribution) as well as derived products from modeling efforts (e.g., species abundance, distribution, habitat shifts, lipidscape dynamics, and biophysical models).
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