A Century of Ecosystem Science by National Research Council, Division on Earth and Life

By National Research Council, Division on Earth and Life Studies, Polar Research Board, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Committee to Review the Gulf of Alaska Ecosystem Monitoring Program

Record from the Committee to study the Gulf of Alaska atmosphere tracking application and the nationwide learn Council. Softcover.

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Humans derive goods, services, and pleasure from the ocean and consequently, marine systems are affected by these human activities. This occurs in a context of regional climatic and oceanic change—changes that will inevitably and unpredictably occur during the time scale of GEM. Almost all resource management issues require society to determine the cause of observed system changes. Thus, the conceptual foundation THE IMPORTANCE OF A CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATION 33 provides a framework for thinking about the kinds of measurements and studies that will be needed if we hope to understand the influences of environmental variation and human activities on the delivery of goods and services from the marine ecosystems.

It deals with both oceanic and terrestrial ecosystems and the ways that climate and humans influence the production of energy and its flow through these interconnected systems. With a modest restatement, so that it is phrased as an hypothesis, the conceptual foundation could provide a useful guide for research: The Gulf of Alaska, its surrounding watersheds, and human populations are an interconnected set of ecosystems that must be studied and monitored as an integrated whole. Within this interconnected set, at time-scales of years to decades, climate and human impacts are the two most important driving forces in determining the amount of primary production and its transfer to upper trophic-level organisms of concern to humans.

The choice among these options requires that existing data be synthesized first. Many of the natural changes in the Gulf of Alaska are thought to cycle at intervals of several decades. Because little monitoring has been ongoing for such long periods, continuing past measurements may represent the most effective way of testing for variation at this temporal scale. Second, if two existing measurements show striking correlations, measuring new variables can be an effective way of testing the mechanisms of interaction among complex environmental factors.

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