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December 2007 E-Update
The 2013 Albemarle-Pamlico Ecosystem Symposium: Embarking on a New Voyage
By Lindsey Smart, APNEP Project Coordinator
The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) has realized significant milestones and embarked on several new initiatives since hosting the last State of the Sounds Symposium in the Fall of 2011. These achievements are a significant step forward for the program and were pervasive themes underpinning much of the dialogue at the 2013 Ecosystem Symposium.
The 2013 symposium showcased presentations on diverse topics pertaining to the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed. APNEP partners from throughout the region convened at this day-long conference to share ideas, research, and management priorities for the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. Attendees from all sectors – state and federal government, non-profit organizations, and private industry – engaged in this great opportunity for information transfer among some of the leading scientists and specialists in the field.
Notable speakers included Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation; Dr. Bill Crowell, director of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership; and Dr. Michael Piehler, Associate Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Science.
The discussions at the symposium addressed one or more of the basic questions that form the foundation of APNEP's current strategic plan. These questions include: (1) what is a healthy Albemarle-Pamlico system, (2) what is the current condition of the system, (3) what are the most significant challenges facing the system over the next 10 years, and (4) what actions should be implemented to best achieve a healthy system?
The following are key program highlights and new initiatives that were among the topics discussed at the 2013 Ecosystem Symposium.
From Program to Partnership
As a National Estuary Program, much of APNEP’s work is achieved through collaborative partnerships and leveraged resources. Many of the objectives and actions fundamental to APNEP rely on involvement from key governmental, non-profit, and other partners. The continued success of APNEP is highly dependent upon the success of these partnerships.
In 2012, as part of a formal recognition of these integral coordinated restoration and protection efforts, APNEP was formally renamed as a partnership.
Planning for the Future: APNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP)
This 2012 – 2022 strategic plan provides a framework for implementing a management approach strongly tied to two key tenets: (1) a watershed approach to protecting and restoring the estuarine system, and (2) a partnership approach to achieve the APNEP mission. One fundamental difference from previous plans is the adoption of ecosystem-based management principles to more effectively carry out the APNEP mission.
Ecosystem-based management includes consideration of human and natural systems, an adaptive management framework, and meaningful engagement with the region’s citizens to find environmental management and policy solutions.
The adaptive management framework allows APNEP to alter its plan or approach as both successes and shortcomings are documented. Ultimately, APNEP is working to introduce more accountability into the environmental management process by adopting this framework.
State of Our Sounds: An Ecosystem Assessment
In parallel to efforts in developing APNEP’s strategic plan for 2012 – 2022 (the first new plan since 1994), the program has worked with its partners to develop an updated ecosystem assessment of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system.
Environmental assessments are critical because priorities for research, management, and policy cannot be effectively developed without knowledge of the current status of the ecosystem and how it may be changing. The successful management of our natural environment is predicated on our ability to define and measure those aspects that make it healthy. The 2012 APNEP ecosystem assessment provides a “snapshot” in time for the Albemarle-Pamlico region – details that provide baseline data that forms the basis for measuring the success of natural resource management activities. Continued routine assessments for the Albemarle-Pamlico region, like this one, will be essential for the ecosystem-based management approach and adaptive management framework that has been established for the region.
Protection of the estuary is important to the environment and economy in North Carolina and Virginia, as the estuary supports one of the nation’s richest varieties of terrestrial and aquatic life. The discussion with APNEP and other partners, East Carolina University Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, North Carolina Sea Grant, University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, U.S. Geological Survey, and Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, was a highlight of this day-long conference on November 20, 2013 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center in New Bern, North Carolina.