APNEP Science and Technology
Only when natural resource management practices are grounded in scientific understanding and utilize current technological advances can the services provided by the Albemarle-Pamlico regional ecosystem be maximized for the benefit of current and future generations. The goal of APNEP’s Science & Technology Initiative is to facilitate the development of the technical information possible to guide decisions and evaluate actions that are critical to success in achieving APNEP’s mission.
Scientific and technological (S & T) issues have played major roles in APNEP, beginning with the program’s inception in late 1987. Nearly 60 percent of the five-year (1987-1992), $10 million Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary Study (APES) was allocated to research and data acquisition. This investment led to the creation of more than 100 technical publications, including the 1991 APES document “Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System: Technical Analysis of Status and Trends” that summarized conditions and trends then found in the Albemarle-Pamlico system and what was known about their causes. These research products provided the technical foundation for APNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) in November 1994.
As APNEP’s focus transitioned from program planning to CCMP implementation beginning in 1995, program funding (including research funding) decreased significantly. The most significant S & T activity in the early 2000s was the APNEP Monitoring Plan Workshop in December 2000. APNEP also funded a number of demonstration projects with S & T components during 2000-2002, including a creek monitoring project in the Neuse River Basin, an alternative on-site wastewater treatment system in the Tar-Pamlico River Basin, a constructed wetland to treat backwash from a water treatment plant in the Pasquotank River Basin, a precision agriculture (fertilizer application and soil preparation) methodology in the Chowan River Basin, and riparian zone restoration (including livestock fencing) in the Roanoke River Basin.
In response to recommendations by an EPA National Estuary Program 2002 program implementation review to reinvigorate the Program’s S & T enterprise, APNEP’s Coordinating Council (predecessor to the Policy Board), in consultation with N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and EPA, approved the creation of a science coordinator position (filled in late 2003). To support the re-emergence of science and technical focus in the program, a 36-member Science & Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) was formed in spring 2004. The STAC held their first quarterly meeting in summer 2004, was sanctioned as one of APNEP’s formal advisory bodies first by North Carolina Governor’s Executive Order #74 in spring 2005, and most recently by Executive Order #133 in fall 2012.
The goal of APNEP’s S & T Initiative is to facilitate the establishment of an environmental information and decision support system relevant to those who influence local, state and federal government actions within the Albemarle-Pamlico Region and who assess their implications. The body of knowledge therein must be authoritative, integrated across program elements, and effectively communicated to the scientific community, managers, decision and policy makers, and the public. APNEP’s S & T strategy is to implement a decision support system based on a regional assessment framework that gauges ecological condition and the effectiveness of management programs (see Figure).
Figure 1. Monitoring-Research-Assessment-Management Cycle that gauges ecological condition and the effectiveness of management programs (CRMSW 2000:11). Monitoring, assessment, and research are emboldened in the figure to demonstrate the relation between an operational cycle (key to program success) and S & T.
A near-term demonstration of Initiative progress is the scheduled production of the following elements of APNEP’s decision support system: Regional Ecosystem Assessment (spring 2012), Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) (spring 2012), Indicators and Benchmarks (mid-2013), and Integrated Monitoring Strategy (late 2013).