With increasing human populations, demands on coastal resources are increasing, leading to dramatic changes in coastal ecosystems. Because we rely on the ocean for food, commerce, mineral, and energy resources, as well as for recreation, it is critical that we develop conservation and management strategies that facilitate the sustainable use of marine resources while minimizing impacts on natural systems. A major impediment to achieving this has been a lack of an integrated understanding of the basic processes governing coastal ocean ecosystems.
In an effort to develop this understanding, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy recommended that the National Ocean Council make the development and implementation of a sustained, national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) a key element of its leadership and coordination role (recommendation 26-1). This system should be developed such that it is able to rapidly and systematically acquire and disseminate data and data products to serve the critical and expanding needs of environmental protection, public health, industry, education, research, and recreation.
The IOOS is a system that: 1) is based on sound science and modern technologies, 2) provides timely access to data, and 3) makes effective use of existing resources, knowledge, and expertise (Malone 2001). Malone (2001) proposed that an ICOOS initially develop through the establishment of regional proof-of-concept pilot projects that incorporate existing programs and new initiatives into a coordinated and integrated system. Starting in 2002, the Coastal Observation Technology System (COTS) project funded the Center for Integrated Marine Technologies (CIMT) to develop one of several model demonstrations of regional coastal ocean observing systems based on combined knowledge, expertise, and efforts. In 2003, a regional component of IOOS was initiated (Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System – CeNCOOS) and CIMT joined as a partner in this regional effort.
A well-integrated interdisciplinary approach offers the best prospect of providing predictions regarding present and future effects of human activities on marine ecosystems. We have assembled a group of physical, biological, and geochemical oceanographers, ecologists, resources managers, and remote sensing experts, together with instrumentation and networking engineers who are working synergistically to develop an integrated regional coastal ocean observation system. Our unified goal is to create a well-integrated pilot system that will provide novel insights and critical data about the functioning of the California coastal upwelling ecosystem.
In its final report, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy proposed a list of core variables to be measured by the national IOOS (Table 1). CIMT currently measures 23 of 36 relevant variables (excluding variables concerning ice). In addition, CIMT measures 13 of 19 provisional IOOS core variables that should be measured by the national backbone for detection or prediction of phenomena of interest. From its inception, the Center for Integrated Marine Technologies (CIMT) has sought to develop the resources and technologies needed to: 1) develop an integrated, sustainable system to measure core IOOS environmental variables over the long-term, 2) archive and access these data products using IOOS Data Management and Communication Subcommittee (DMAC) data management guidelines, 3) use data products in the development of predictive models to facilitate prognostication of change in the coastal environment with time, 4) identify a broad community of users for measured data products, and 5) create integrated data products that are accessible and understandable to community users. CIMT seeks to explicitly link new technologies across disciplines of marine science to address key questions for environmental protection, public health, industry, education, research, and recreation. CIMT combines emerging technological and data integration approaches to determine the processes underlying the dynamics of coastal upwelling ecosystems, and to investigate the critical linkages between:
- • Detailed physical oceanographic measurements of upwelling intensity and surface currents with
- • Assessment of the availability of critical nutrients, to determine the extent to which these may be used to predict
- • The distribution, abundance and species composition of phytoplankton zooplankton, harmful algal species, and
- • The distribution, abundance and species composition of top-level, commercially-important consumers including fish, sea lions, seabirds, sea turtles, and whales.
By using a multi-disciplinary approach, CIMT promises to deliver relevant physical, chemical, and biological ocean information to a diverse array of stakeholders.
The CIMT efforts are focused on the Monterey Bay region of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) – from Pt. Año Nuevo on the North to Pt. Lobos on the South out to 122°05’ west longitude. This region roughly encompasses the effects of the Davenport/Año Nuevo upwelling region (Rosenfeld et al. 1994). Monterey Bay is an ideal location for the development of a pilot sub-regional OOS. Presently, there are more than 20 federal, state, and private academic, research, and resource management agencies and institutions actively involved in studying, measuring, and monitoring the waters in and around Monterey Bay and the MBNMS on an ongoing basis. A number of these institutions have been collectively developing, maintaining, and operating a coastal observing system in Monterey Bay and the surrounding region, delivering data in near real-time, for almost 15 years, and these efforts are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary and multi-institutional.