View a copy of the Statement of work for Florida GAME

Scope of Work

Development of an Ecosystem-based Framework for Coastal and Marine Assessment and Management in Florida - Phase 1: Information Survey


Florida's economy and quality of life depend on the quality of coastal and marine ecosystems, which are under increasing pressure due to land development, pollution, recreational use, and commercial activities. At a national level, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy identified significant concerns regarding the sustainability of our nation's use of its ocean resources. The commission recommended a science-driven, ecosystem-based approach to managing ocean and coastal resources. Ecosystem-based management examines links between living organisms and their environment. It is a management approach that considers human activities, their benefits, and their potential impacts within the broader background of related social, economic, and ecological factors. This approach is now embraced on the federal level by the Bush Administration's U.S. Ocean Action Plan, the newly formed Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the Florida Oceans and Coastal Resources Management Act (sections 161.70-76, F.S.). The activity outlined in this document represents groundwork required for the State of Florida to implement ecosystem-based management strategies for Florida's estuaries and marine waters.

Project Overview

Environmental resource managers, such as Wildlife Management Area (WMA) managers, fisheries managers, researchers, and scientists, have recognized the need for management approaches that are based on an ecosystem perspective. The United States is moving beyond reliance on a technology-based, one-size-fits-all uniform national standards approach for resource assessment and management to an approach that recognizes the significance of ecosystem differences and their relationship to regional variations in manageable resource quality.

Spatial frameworks, or works performed in a specific space, are based on ecological characteristics, called ecoregions, which are very powerful tools in environmental protection. Among the many benefits an ecologically-based management structure can provide are the following:

•Developing resource management plans that balance
economic growth with coastal and marine resource protection
•Predicting the effects of management practices and controls
•Identifying areas that should receive additional resource
•Identifying areas that are the most appropriate for public uses
•Locating sites for monitoring and special studies
•Identifying data and information gaps
•Projecting information specific to one site to a larger area or areas
•Establishing regional chemical and biological assessment tools
and water quality standards
•Assessing cumulative impacts
•Comparing regional land-use and land/water patterns
•Protecting endangered and other critical species habitat, and;
•Assessing the environmental effects of climate changes

This project includes Phase 1 of an initiative to define marine and coastal ecoregions in Florida that will form the basis for an ecosystem-based approach to assessing and managing coastal and marine environments.

Phase 1 of the initiative covers basic data collection, identification of information gaps, mapping of information, developing a draft plan for a comprehensive bioregions assessment, or ranges that are outlined by natural or topographical features (Phase 2), and soliciting public input on the mapped information and overall project plan. Some of the most important sources of information are the "mental maps" or natural features of a region of ecosystem patterns held by scientists, resource managers, and the public who have studied or used specific areas. Public meetings will be designed to capture at least some of this information.

It is recognized that remote sensing information, such as satellite data, will be of particular help in defining ecoregions. Remote sensing data provide historical and frequent synoptic or general views of important environmental conditions. These data appear to greatly aid in attaining consistency across interstate borders and other areal units, or units relating to a specific area, where mapped resource material on landscape characteristics vary in quality, availability and type. Similarly, an important asset to this effort will be the observations and studies conducted on a regional basis by the developing coastal ocean observing systems.

Project Objectives

The primary objectives of the project include:

1. To identify, catalog, and inventory physical, biological, chemical, geological, atmospheric, geomorphological (a science that seeks a genetic interpretation or land and marine features), and other environmental data and reports, as well as human use information, within the boundaries of Florida's coastal and marine waters, the adjacent federal waters of the West Florida Shelf, and coastal land areas.
2. To develop a detailed assessment of data gaps and a prioritized list of data collection requirements that are needed to fill specific data gaps.
3. To develop a comprehensive data management strategy to address all data gathering, storage and mapping needs.
4. To develop a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based map of relevant collected data.
5. To develop a plan for a definition of an ecoregion and present it to stakeholders (i.e. environmental managers and scientists) and the public to receive feedback on data gaps and the overall draft resource map and to propose steps for Phase II.
6. Develop a draft plan for a subsequent Phase 2 project, aimed at filling data gaps identified in Phase I and developing a bioregions assessment.

As part of this state survey, we will actively work with relevant state and federal agencies, academic entities, regional observing systems and recognized regional experts including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and others in the private sector to expand the data catalog and inventory.

After completion of the survey of existing information, and identification of data gaps, a draft of preliminary resource maps and metadata (information that describes the content, quality, condition, origin, and other characteristics of data or other pieces of information) products will be generated. These will be presented to stakeholders in community discussions for public comment. Comments will be used in developing an ecosystem assessment strategy. These meetings will actively seek to engage key beneficiaries from Florida, and will benefit from similar activities as they may be occurring in the other states along the gulf coast. The goal is to make this an open and transparent process.

The ultimate goal is for the smaller scale efforts being carried out by federal and other state and local government entities, defining the coastal waters and estuaries, to flow seamlessly into the broader classification of the Gulf of Mexico. This will allow the federal government and the states to make coordinated and complementary decisions concerning commercial and recreational uses, conservation areas, and monitoring programs. This information will be used to guide scientific research.

Project Tasks

Task 1. Data Discovery and Acquisition

Task 1 is an effort to identify and obtain environmental datasets (any collection of related facts arranged in a particular format) and other resources that are required to produce preliminary GIS-based maps of information about Florida's coastal and marine areas, including adjacent federal waters of the West Florida Shelf and nearshore coastal areas. The required information will come from a wide variety of disciplines: geographical, physical, chemical, biological, atmospheric, human use information (i.e. boat activity, anchorage points, marine facilities, pipelines, etc.), and various sources of literature. To avoid duplicating efforts, researchers will conserve resources when possible where previous studies have been conducted. Among the agencies who have conducted previous studies are: the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, the Nature Conservancy, the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, National Marine Fisheries Service and other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offices, the Minerals Management Service, and others.

1-1. Develop a preliminary list of known, relevant spatial, or specific space, and tabular datasets, or information in a table or spreadsheet, for the project. Examples of spatial information include but are not limited to

• Physical marine, including: circulation patterns, salinity, and temperature.
• Geomorphology, a science that deals with the land and submarine relief features of the earth's surface, including bathymetry, the measurement of depths of water, and coastal elevation (Lidar where available), structure, and sediment characteristics.
• Benthic habitats, or habitats relating to the bottom of a body of water, including: hard bottom, submerged aquatic vegetation and coral reefs.
• Human use activities, including: transportation and communication corridors, commercial and recreational fishing areas, marine managed areas, artificial reefs, and aquaculture lease sites.

Some critical information includes time-dependent as well as three-dimensional components. It will be necessary to define at least preliminary strategies to use such information as:

• Distribution of endangered and other species, including feeding and spawning areas
• Upwelling, or flow, and gyres, or motion.

1-2. Develop a comprehensive information technology (IT) strategy and data management plan to handle the required computer/server infrastructure and associated operation and maintenance needs, and storage of the data, including data quality criteria (the degree to which the information in a database is accurate and consistent according to type of data) and metadata requirements. This will include a strategy to develop live and active links with other databases and coastal and other observing systems that collect information and operate permanent data archives.

1-3. Design and conduct a survey to determine locations of preliminary sources identified in task 1-1 and 1-2, including mechanism(s) to acquire other relevant information sources not included in the preliminary target list.

1-4. Acquire and store readily available GIS and tabular datasets in a central location and/or develop live and active links to other existing archives and near real-time data streams according to the project's IT/data management plan. Develop a plan for acquiring non-electronic datasets that are desirable and readily available for manually entering the information or other data input procedures.

1-5. Design and deploy an Internet application to serve the digital data (including links to other archives) and associated metadata to researchers, resource managers, and the public.

Task 2. Data Gaps

Many of the data required for this effort are not immediately available for a number of reasons, including lack of publication, proprietary restrictions, formatting, and lack of digitization. Therefore, the data are not available as GIS data layers (images available to view on a map) or even as digital tabular databases, or information not in digital form. Further, much of the marine environment surrounding Florida remains poorly studied and many resources are unmapped. For these reasons, a considerable initial effort will be devoted to finding data gaps.

2-1. Assess data and other resource gaps and produce a prioritized list of information gaps according to critical needs.

2-2. Implement a plan developed in task 1-4 to acquire high priority non-electronic critical documents.

Task 3. Produce Draft Resource Map

Once all of the available contributing resource information has been identified, catalogued and, where possible, digitized, it will be placed into the Geographic Information System at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Alternatively, active links will establish access to complementary datasets archived or generated in near real-time by other programs such as coastal ocean observing systems. Maps containing the resource layers will be produced, reviewed and revised as needed in preparation for presentation at the public meetings.

3-1. Produce a GIS-based data structure that links and combines spatial resource layers with corresponding relevant datasets that also features spatial data gaps layers.

3-2. Prepare wall-sized maps as well as a Web site for digital reconstruction of maps for presentation at public meetings.

Task 4. Stakeholder Involvement

The mapping effort will generate preliminary resource information overlays in a way that allows the broader community to visualize the need for planning and management of marine regions and their living resources. During the data survey phase of the project members of the Steering Committee and others will be providing input. Following the data survey phase, the draft resource maps will be used in a series of regional public meetings organized by the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) to inform the public about ecosystem-based management and to get comments and additional feedback from local resource users and citizens. Also, briefings will be given to the Florida Oceans and Coastal Resources Council (OCRC) created by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Resources Management Act (HB 1855 sections 161.70-76, F.S.) as needed regarding this project and its relationship to Phase II. In addition, a project Web site will be developed which will describe the project and distribute the final results of Phase I.

4-1. Conduct a series of public workshops for stakeholders and the public that are designed to illustrate the resource and gap coverages and solicit public input on the map products and project plan.

4-2. Conduct a minimum of two briefings to the OCRC on this project and present a proposal for a Phase II continuation project that will address collection of information where gaps exist and develop coastal and marine ecoregions for Florida.

The draft plan for Phase 2 will include a strategy to collect existing data identified in Phase I but unavailable to the present activity, fill data gaps identified in Phase I, and analyze regional patterns in the data in defining a generalized system of coastal and marine ecoregions at a scale appropriate for planning and resource management. Phase II will include bioregion assessments.

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