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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium (1995)

Chapter: Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine

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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Using Indicators of Environmental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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INTRODUCTION

An indicator is a signal of an environmental/social condition that may need further investigation or remedial action. Indicators of environmental quality are monitored for several different purposes —to gather information about the status and trends of ecosystem health, to evaluate the effects of policy and management programs, and to monitor compliance with regulatory programs. Indicators of marine environmental quality could provide a means to monitor the health of the Gulf of Maine. Many different indicators are conceivable, each related to specific environmental problems. Thus, measurements of specific toxic chemical contaminants in sediments, the water column, and organisms could provide information about sources, effects, and fates of some chemical pollutants. Monitoring of marine ecosystem health is necessary for determining how ecosystems are affected by a variety of impacts and what management options would best ensure the future health and productivity of these systems. Although monitoring can improve our understanding of marine ecosystems, in many cases a base of understanding must be achieved before we can determine what variables should be monitored and at what frequency in time and space. A pilot program for environmental monitoring in the Gulf of Maine, Gulfwatch, has been established recently. Means for cooperation among policymakers, scientists, and the public is illustrated by interactions involved in studying Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay (see Appendix F).

Not only the natural segment of coastal systems should be monitored. It is also important to monitor the impact of coastal environmental health, use, and policies on the human ecology of coastal areas. Coastal policies work directly on people and only indirectly on the environment, through the actions of affected people. This creates a need for monitoring the effectiveness of policies in changing the beliefs and behaviors of coastal populations and how these changes relate to environmental quality.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
This page in the original is blank.
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS OF TOXIC CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS IN THE GULF OF MAINE

Judith McDowell Capuzzo

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Environmental concern about contaminant input to coastal waters is focused on (1) the accumulation and transfer of metals and organic contaminants in marine food chains, including accumulation in commercial resources and potential impacts on human health and (2) the toxic effects of such contaminants on the survival and reproduction of marine organisms and the resulting impact on marine ecosystems. Evaluation of the fate and effects of toxic contaminants of environmental concern in the marine environment requires an understanding of (1) the temporal and spatial distribution of contaminants; (2) the partitioning of contaminants to different compartments of the ecosystem (e.g., sediments and biota), including assessment of contaminant bioavailability; and (3) the level of damage imposed by accumulation of contaminants in biotic resources. Such an evaluation requires the development of risk assessment or characterization that couples an understanding of contaminant distribution in the environment with an understanding of the mechanisms of toxic action and the transfer of contaminants to the human consumer. A conceptual model for describing ecological and human health risks must successfully relate contaminant distribution and bioavailability to the probability and magnitude of biological impact. The use of environmental indicators within the context of this conceptual model allows predictions of the temporal and spatial scales of environmental quality issues.

The Gulf of Maine serves as an excellent example for the application of environmental indicators to evaluate marine environmental quality. The Gulf of Maine ecosystem extends southward from the coast of Nova Scotia to Massachusetts, where it is

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

comprised of many small embayments, and seaward on the continental shelf to Georges Bank and Browns Bank (Figure 1). This ecosystem is well known for its diverse habitats, productive fishing grounds, and unique oceanographic conditions. It is the third most densely populated coastal region in the United States (Culliton et al., 1990). The small embayments of the Gulf of Maine are strongly influenced by land-use practices and range from fairly pristine environments to highly contaminated environments in the vicinity of urban settings (Larsen, 1992). The input of chemical contaminants to the Gulf of Maine is derived from a variety of sources including discharges from industrial and municipal sources, oil spills, dredged material, offshore oil and gas exploration, atmospheric fallout, riverine inputs, and other nonpoint pollution sources. The environmental distribution of chemical contaminants has been well characterized in many areas within the Gulf of Maine. Specific concerns are focused on the distribution of trace metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other chlorinated hydrocarbons, especially in many estuaries within the Gulf of Maine (e.g., Saco River, Great Bay, Penobscot Bay, Casco Bay, Merrimack River, Massachusetts Bay, and Cape Cod Bay).

Two aspects of the present status of toxic chemical concentrations in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem that are important to consider in evaluating marine environmental quality are (1) comparison with other coastal areas of the United States, particularly within the Northeastern United States; and (2) the status of the distribution of toxic chemicals within specific embayments. The National Status and Trends Program for Marine Environmental Quality of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) surveyed about 300 sites in the United States coastal area for concentrations of trace metals and lipophilic organic contaminants since 1984. In the Gulf of Maine, 15 stations were surveyed for sediment contamination and nine stations were surveyed for the accumulation of contaminants in biota (Mussel Watch; Figure 2). More recently, a pilot program for environmental monitoring in the Gulf of Maine, Gulfwatch, has been established. In addition, several studies of contaminant distribution in sediments have been conducted in specific embayments or specific regions of the Gulf of Maine.

Sediment Quality

The distribution, fate, and effects of chemical contaminants in coastal marine environments are governed by natural biogeochemical processes that influence contaminant persistence and bioavailability. Accumulation of contaminants in biological resources may occur through aqueous, dietary, or sedimentary pathways. In the long-term, chemical contaminants of biological concern, such as metals and organic compounds, are associated primarily with particulate matter. Transport of particulate-bound contaminants within coastal areas coincides with sediment transport processes, and thus, there are numerous examples around the world where sediment deposits in coastal areas reflect waste disposal histories. Transfer of contaminants to marine biota and humans and disturbance of ecological systems

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

are dependent on the availability and persistence of contaminants within sediments and transport within benthic ecosystems.

Larsen (1992) recently reviewed studies on the distribution of trace contaminants in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Trace metals, chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in sediments and biota throughout the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Spatial gradients of contamination are delineated with nearshore, urban, and industrialized areas having higher concentrations of specific contaminants than offshore areas.

Trace Metals

High concentrations of several trace metals have been detected in sediment samples from several estuaries within the Gulf of Maine. Chromium concentration in the Great Bay estuary (N.H.), the Saco River (Maine), and Salem Harbor (Mass.) have been attributed to the input of tannery wastes to coastal waters over the past fifty years (Capuzzo and Anderson, 1973; Armstrong et al., 1976; Mayer and Fink, 1980; NOAA, 1991). Concentrations of other trace metals also appear to be elevated at several locations within the Gulf of Maine, including Boothbay Harbor, Casco Bay, and Penobscot Bay (Larsen, 1992). From data sets collected in the NOAA National Status and Trends Program, five sites within the Gulf of Maine had high concentrations of trace metals (greater than one standard deviation above the geometric mean for all stations; NOAA, 1991):

  1. Merriconeag Sound for tin,

  2. Cape Ann for lead and tin,

  3. Salem Harbor for silver, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead, tin, and zinc, and

  4. Boston Harbor for silver, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, and tin.

  5. Quincy Bay for silver, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead, and tin

Petroleum Hydrocarbons

Petroleum hydrocarbons may be derived from a variety of different sources, including the burning of fossil fuels, accidental oil spills, and chronic inputs from municipal discharges and marinas. Oil spills have occurred frequently in the Gulf of Maine, especially in Boston Harbor, Portland Harbor, and Penobscot Bay. Sites in the Gulf of Maine with high concentrations of PAHs include Boston Harbor, Casco Bay, and Penobscot Bay. Loadings of

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

PAHs to Massachusetts Bay are estimated to be within the range of 2.1 to 13.7 metric tons per year (Menzie-Cura and Associates, 1991). Sites receiving inputs from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are among the most contaminated sites in Boston Harbor/Massachusetts Bays. Concentrations of total PAHs in Boston Harbor sediments are among the highest reported for all coastal sites of the United States in the NOAA National Status and Trends program. Among sites examined within the New England region, concentrations of total PAHs in sediment samples from Boston Harbor exceeded concentrations in samples from other sites by as much as one to two orders of magnitude (MacDonald, 1991).

Johnson et al. (1985) reported high concentrations of PAHs in Penobscot Bay, with a distinct spatial gradient decreasing seaward from the head of the bay. The composition of PAHs suggested a pyrogenic source, and the authors concluded that atmospheric transport and river runoff may be the major sources of PAH contamination. Larsen et al. (1983) reported high concentrations of PAHs in Casco Bay, with the highest levels found in Portland Harbor, and the composition reflecting multiple sources of input including automobile and aircraft traffic, petroleum handling facilities, and municipal sewer systems. Additional studies in the central Gulf of Maine suggested an accumulation of PAHs in the fine-grained sediments in depositional basins (Larsen et al., 1986).

Among the NOAA National Status and Trends sediment stations, the following sites in the Gulf of Maine had high concentrations of low molecular weight (2- and 3-ring) compounds and high molecular weight (4-ring and larger) compounds (NOAA, 1991):

  1. Penobscot Bay - low molecular weight and high molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons;

  2. Casco Bay (Kennebec River) - low molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons;

  3. Cape Ann - high molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons;

  4. Salem Harbor - low molecular weight and high molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons;

  5. Boston Harbor - low molecular weight and high molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons; and

  6. Quincy Bay - low molecular weight and high molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

Chlorinated hydrocarbons (including DDT, other chlorinated pesticides, and PCBs) are highly resistant to degradation in the marine environment and may accumulate to high concentrations in both sediments and biota. For the few areas of the U.S. coastline for which long-term data sets exist, the concentrations of chlorinated hydrocarbons in sediments and tissues of marine organisms appear to be declining since the late 1960s and early 1970s (Mearns et al., 1988), with the exception of highly contaminated areas such as New Bedford Harbor, Mass. Comparison of data for NOAA National Status and Trends Stations in the Gulf of Maine reveal that only Boston Harbor and Salem Harbor have high concentrations of total PCBs and total DDT. Data collected by Larsen et al. (1984) on PCB concentrations in sediments from Casco Bay suggest that the concentrations of PCBs have increased since the 1980s. Data summarized by Hauge (1988) and reported by Larsen (1992) suggest that agricultural runoff may contribute large inputs of chlorinated pesticides, such as aldrin, chlordane, and heptachlor, to the Gulf of Maine through the Kennebec estuary. Concentrations of individual pesticides in sediments from the Kennebec River Plume are as high or higher than in sediments from urban harbors such as Boston Harbor.

Mussel Watch

Bivalve molluscs have been used extensively during the past two decades as sentinel monitors of chemical contamination (Butler, 1973; NRC, 1980; Farrington et al., 1983), and more recently, as organisms in biological effects monitoring (Bayne et al., 1988). Distinguishing between natural and enhanced levels of chemicals in marine biota is extremely difficult without a detailed data base on background levels for different species and the extent of natural variation in background levels, as a result of both environmental and biological factors.

Trace Metals

Differences in background trace metal levels between species of organisms can be as large as several orders of magnitude, whereas trace metal levels in the same species sampled along an environmental gradient from uncontaminated to contaminated habitats may vary by less than an order of magnitude. Marine animals differ in their capacity to store, remove, and detoxify metal contaminants. Thus, considerable variation in metal content may be apparent among different species collected from a single location. Seasonal differences in metal concentrations in mussels (Mytilus) vary by a factor of 2 to 4 due to changes in physiological and/or reproductive condition (Capuzzo et al., 1987).

Samples collected and analyzed during the U.S. Mussel Watch Program (1976 to 1978) indicate a relatively high concentration of lead in mussels collected at several New

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

England sites, ranging from Cape Newagen, Maine, to Cape Cod Canal, Mass., with the highest concentrations occurring at Cape Ann and Boston, Mass. (Goldberg et al., 1983). Among the NOAA National Status and Trends Mussel Watch stations, the following sites surveyed in the Gulf of Maine were among the 20 most contaminated sites in U.S. coastal waters for several trace metals (NOAA, 1989):

  1. Boston Harbor for silver, lead, mercury, copper, and chromium;

  2. Salem Harbor for lead, copper, and chromium; and

  3. Penobscot Bay for mercury.

Results from the pilot program for Gulfwatch indicate high concentrations of lead in mussels from Boothbay Harbor, Maine (Sowles et al., 1992).

Petroleum Hydrocarbons and Chlorinated Hydrocarbons

The bioaccumulation of lipophilic organic contaminants is influenced by (1) chemical factors such as solubility and particle adsorption-desorption kinetics of specific compounds, and (2) biological factors such as the transfer of compounds through food chains and the amount of body lipid in exposed organisms. Differences in contaminant concentrations among species from different habitats may be the result of differences in the availability of sediment-bound contaminants and capacity for biotransformation. In contrast to body burdens of trace metals, differences in the concentration of lipophilic organic contaminants in bivalves, collected from uncontaminated and contaminated locations, may vary by several orders of magnitude (Capuzzo et al., 1987).

Samples of mussels taken during the U.S. Mussel Watch Program indicate that shellfish collected from the northeastern part of the United States had elevated concentrations of PCBs, in comparison to shellfish collected from U.S. west coast sites (Farrington et al., 1983). The lowest levels of PCBs in the northeast were detected in mussels collected from the Maine coast (with the exception of Portland, Casco Bay) and stations north of Boston. Consistently elevated levels (> 0.01 ppm wet weight) were evident from Boston southward. Concentrations of PAHs in mussels were generally < 0.1 ppm wet weight, with the exception of samples collected from Boston Harbor, where values ranged from 0.3 to 0.5 ppm wet weight.

Among the NOAA National Status and Trends Mussel Watch stations, the following sites surveyed in the Gulf of Maine were among the 20 most contaminated sites in U.S. coastal waters for PAHs and chlorinated hydrocarbons (NOAA, 1989):

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
  1. Boston Harbor for low molecular weight and high molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons, total DDT, total PCBs, lindane, dieldrin, and total chlordane;

  2. Salem Harbor for dieldrin;

  3. Merriconeag Sound for lindane; and

  4. Penobscot Bay for lindane.

In the Gulfwatch Program, mussels from Boothbay Harbor had high concentrations of PCBs and PAHs (Sowles et al., 1992).

Other Indicators

Although the data sets are much less extensive, other biological samples have been collected as part of national or regional monitoring programs and analyzed for trace contaminants. The largest data set is that for trace contaminants in fish livers, collected as part of the NOAA National Status and Trends Benthic Surveillance program. A comparison of trace metal concentrations in fish liver samples taken from 1984 to 1987 at the same sites as sediment samples were collected indicated a gradient of trace metal contamination throughout the Gulf of Maine, with moderate to high concentration of individual trace metals being detected in samples from Casco Bay, Boston Harbor, Salem Harbor, and Quincy Bay (NOAA, 1987). For lipophilic organic contaminants, samples from Boston Harbor and Quincy Bay have the highest concentrations of total DDT, other chlorinated hydrocarbons, and total PCBs (Gottholm and Turgeon, 1992).

Indicators of Ecological Concerns

Ecological concerns of contamination in the marine environment include changes in species distributions and abundance, habitat alterations, and changes in energy flow and biogeochemical cycles. The toxic effects of chemical contaminants on marine organisms are dependent on bioavailability and persistence, the ability of organisms to accumulate and metabolize contaminants, and the interference of contaminants with specific metabolic or ecological processes. Recent studies, of the incidence of tumors and other histopathological disorders in bottom-dwelling fish and shellfish from contaminated coastal areas, have suggested a possible link between levels of lipophilic organic contaminants and the increased incidence of histopathological conditions.

Unpublished data by Sherburne (reported by Larsen, 1992) suggests a high incidence of several histopathological disorders in fish, crabs, and clams from contaminated areas along the coast of Maine. The occurrence of liver neoplasia in adult winter flounder (Murchelano

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

and Wolke, 1985) and the progression of abnormal cell types in the liver of young winter flounder (Moore, 1991) have been observed along a contaminant gradient in Boston Harbor. Gardner (1991) reported the prevalence of germinomas and other histopathological disorders in soft shell clam populations from three sites along the Maine coast —Searsport, Penobscot Bay; Roque Bluffs, Machiasport; and Dennysville. He suggested that these aberrations were not associated with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure as previously suggested (Barry and Yevich, 1975) but linked to herbicide use in blueberry agriculture and silviculture. Recent studies conducted by Moore et al. (1994) in Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays revealed a suite of histopathological conditions associated with chemical contaminant exposure in fish and shellfish. Populations of Mya arenaria and Mytilus edulis collected along a gradient of PAH contamination showed evidence of a wide range of pathologies, including gill hyperplasia and carcinomas, hematopoietic neoplasia, gonadal inflammation, parasitic infections in connective tissues and kidney, and kidney hyperplasia. Discriminant analysis indicated that the prevalence of these pathologies was strongly correlated with high levels of PAH contamination.

In addition to histopathological damage, sublethal toxic effects of contaminants in marine organisms include impairment of physiological processes that may alter the energy available for growth and reproduction, and other effects on reproductive and developmental processes, including direct genetic damage. Biological effects associated with bioconcentration of lipophilic contaminants have been attributed to the uptake of specific compounds and/or their metabolites, rather than the total body burden of hydrocarbons or chlorinated hydrocarbons (Anderson et al., 1980; Malins and Hodgins, 1981; Widdows et al., 1982, 1987; Capuzzo et al., 1984). Biological effects of organic contaminants have been observed at all levels of biological hierarchy (McIntyre and Pearce, 1980; Capuzzo, 1987; Moore et al., 1989). For bivalve molluscs (including populations in the Gulf of Maine), exposure to contaminants has resulted in impairment of physiological mechanisms (Capuzzo and Sasner, 1977; Gilfillan et al., 1977; Widdows, 1985); histopathological disorders (Lowe, 1988; Moore, 1988); and loss of reproductive potential (Neff and Haensly, 1982; Berthou et al., 1987).

An understanding of reproductive and developmental processes provides the critical link between responses to contaminants at the organismal and suborganismal levels and population consequences. Alterations in bioenergetics, linked with observations of reduced fecundity and viability of larvae, abnormalities in gamete and embryological development, and reduced reproductive success, provide a strong empirical basis for examination of population responses.

Indicators of Human Health Concerns

The transfer of toxic chemicals through marine food chains can result in bioaccumulation in commercial fishery resources and transfer to the human consumer. Of

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

specific concern is the uptake and transfer of metals, halogenated hydrocarbons, and other organic contaminants including petroleum hydrocarbons derived from accidental oil spills, municipal discharges, and urban runoff. Contaminants that demonstrate mutagenic, carcinogenic, or teratogenic potential to the human consumer are of particular concern, because they pose direct threats to human health.

Chemical contamination of fishery resources has recently led to fishery closures or fishery advisories in several areas of the U.S. coastline (Capuzzo et al., 1987). For example, striped bass fisheries in the states of New York and Rhode Island were closed in 1986 as a result of PCB contamination; the State of California developed health advisories warning the public against frequent consumption of fish caught in southern California waters; in 1988 the Department of Public Health in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued a state-wide advisory on the consumption of lobster tomalley (hepatopancreas) because of the exceedingly high levels of PCBs and other contaminants; and in 1994 health officials in Maine issued a health advisory for nursing mothers, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age on the consumption of lobster tomalley because of dioxin levels. In addition, health advisories for the consumption of freshwater fish have been issued in Maine because of dioxin contamination (1990) and in Massachusetts because of mercury contamination (1994). In Buzzards Bay, Mass., approximately 28 square miles are closed to finfishing and shellfishing as a result of PCB contamination. These recent actions illustrate a growing concern for the impact of chemical contamination on resources in coastal waters.

Monitoring Requirements and Management Needs

Sediment contaminant concentrations do not easily translate to biological concerns, because bioavailability and toxicological properties can vary widely. Few sediment reference criteria are available; however, concentrations of several contaminants, especially in specific embayments, are high enough to elicit concern of potential biological effects (Long and Morgan, 1990). Mussels and fish liver samples collected at several sites in the Gulf of Maine have elevated concentrations of trace metals and organic contaminants (Table 1). As the relationships between levels of chemical contaminants and biological responses in fish and shellfish continue to be explored, insight of the toxic action of specific compounds and groups of compounds are being elucidated. However, our knowledge of cause and effect relationships between tissue burdens of many contaminants and biological consequences in many species is still incomplete. A broad regional assessment of biological effects of contaminants in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem is lacking at the present time.

Monitoring programs for measuring the fate and effects of chemical contaminants in coastal ecosystems should be designed and executed to provide meaningful information on (1) spatial distribution of contaminants; (2) temporal variability in contaminant distributions, as a result of both natural variability and changes in chemical use patterns or pollution abatement; and (3) the relationship of contaminant inputs to ecological consequences, including habitat

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

alterations of valuable resources and human health concerns. Existing state and federal monitoring efforts in the Gulf of Maine, however, are too limited in scope (both spatially and temporally) to meet these goals.

Ecological effects of contaminants in coastal environments include impairment of feeding, growth, development, and recruitment that may result in both alterations in reproductive and developmental success and changes in community structure and dynamics. The human health concerns of contaminated resources are obvious. Yet, it is difficult to ascertain the relationship between chronic responses of organisms to contaminated habitats and large-scale alterations in the functioning of marine ecosystems, as well as large-scale contamination of fishery resources. The sensitivity of early developmental stages, the impairment of reproductive processes, and the long-term effects on populations suggest that chronic exposure to many contaminants may certainly alter the dynamics of populations, including populations of valuable commercial resources.

To better understand the fate and potential effects of contaminants in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem, the following parameters need to be evaluated:

  1. Define the sources of contamination for specific contaminants. What is the relative contribution of different point and nonpoint sources to loading of individual compounds? An inventory of every compound is not feasible, but an assessment of a few highly persistent compounds such as PCBs, PAHs, and the polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) should be possible.

  2. Determine the persistence, degradation rates, and biogeochemical cycling of specific contaminants in sediments at selected sites in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. How does the flux of specific compounds and the body burdens of resident organisms vary with site?

  3. Using populations of indigenous bivalve species or demersal fish or lobster populations during seasons with limited migrations, define patterns of contaminant exposure and the relationship between exposure and changes in physiological condition or other parameters of biological change.

Such a program could lead to a better understanding of the causal relationship between input of specific contaminants and the relative ecological and human health risks associated with such inputs. Specific management issues that must be addressed, especially in consideration of the ecological and human health risks associated with chemical contamination, are the development of contaminant guidelines for benthic habitats. These should include consideration of guidelines for the disposal of contaminated dredged materials, development of interim sediment criteria, and the routine determination of concentrations of contaminants in harvestable resource species.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×

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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Hauge, P. 1988. Troubled Waters: Report on the Environmental Health of Casco Bay. Conservation Law Foundation, Boston, Mass.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Johnson, A.C., P.F. Larsen, D.F. Gadbois, and A.W. Humason. 1985. The distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the surficial sediments of Penobscot Bay (Maine, USA) in relation to possible sources and to other sites worldwide. Marine Environmental Research 15:1-16.

Larsen, P.F. 1992. Marine Environmental Quality in the Gulf of Maine: A Review. Reviews in Aquatic Sciences 6:67-87.

Larsen, P.F., D.F. Gadbois, and A.C. Johnson. 1986. Distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in surficial sediments of the deeper waters of the Gulf of Maine. Marine Pollution Bulletin 18:231-244.

Larsen, P.F., D.F. Gadbois, A.C. Johnson, and R.F. Maney. 1984. On the appearance of PCBs in the surficial sediments of Casco Bay, Maine. Marine Pollution Bulletin 15:452-453.

Larsen, P.F., D.F. Gadbois, A.C. Johnson, and L.F. Doggett. 1983. Distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the surficial sediments of Casco Bay, Maine. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 30:530-535.

Long, E.R., and L.G. Morgan. 1990. The Potential for Biological Effects of Sediment-sorbed Contaminants Tested in the National Status and Trends Program. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 52. Office of Oceanography and Marine Assessment, Ocean Assessments Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, Wash.

Lowe, D.M. 1988. Alterations in cellular structure of Mytilus edulis resulting from exposure to environmental contaminants under field and experimental conditions. Marine Ecology Progress Series 46:91-100.

MacDonald, D.A. 1991. Status and Trends in Concentrations of Selected Contaminants in Boston Harbor Sediments and Biota. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 56, Seattle, Wash.

Malins, D.C., and H.O. Hodgins. 1981. Petroleum and marine fishes: A review of uptake, disposition, and effects. Environmental Science and Technology 15:1272-1280.

Mayer, L.M. and L.K. Fink, Jr. 1980. Granulometric dependence of chromium accumulation in estuarine sediments in Maine. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 11:491-503.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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McIntyre, A.D., and J.B. Pearce (eds.). 1980. Biological effects of marine pollution and the problems of monitoring . Rapports et Proces-Verbaux des Reunions. Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 179:1-346.

Mearns, A.J., M.B. Matta, D. Simecek-Beatty, M.F. Buchanan, G. Shigenaka, and W.A. Wert. 1988. PCB and Chlorinated Pesticide Contamination in U.S. Fish and Shellfish: A Historical Assessment Report. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 39. National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Rockville, Md.

Menzie-Cura and Associates, Inc. 1991. Sources and Loadings of Pollutants to the Massachusetts Bays. Report to the Massachusetts Bays Program, MBP-91-01, Boston, Mass.

Moore, M.J., R.M. Smolowitz, D.F. Leavitt, and J.J. Stegeman. 1994. Evaluation of Chemical Contaminant Effects in the Massachusetts Bays. Draft Final Report to the Massachusetts Bays Program, Boston, Mass.

Moore, M.J. 1991. Vacuolation, Proliferation and Neoplasia in the Liver of Boston Harbor Winter Flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus). Ph.D. Dissertation, MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Biological Oceanography . Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass. Document 91-28.

Moore, M.N., D.R. Livingstone, and J. Widdows. 1989. Hydrocarbons in marine molluscs: Biological effects and ecological consequences. Pp. 291 in Metabolism of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Aquatic Environment, U. Varanasi, ed. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fla.

Moore, M.N. 1988. Cytochemical responses of the lysosomal system and NADPH-ferrihemoprotein reductase in molluscan digestive cells to environmental and experimental exposure to xenobiotics. Marine Ecology Progress Series 46:81-89.

Murchelano, R.A., and R.E. Wolke. 1985. Epizootic carcinoma in winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus. Science 228: 587-589.

National Research Council. 1980. The International Mussel Watch. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Neff, J.M., and W.E. Haensly. 1982. Long-term impact of the Amoco Cadiz oil spill on oysters Crassostrea gigas and plaice Pleuronectes platessa from Aber-Benoit and Aber-Wrach, Brittany, France. Pp. 269-328 in Ecological Study of the Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill. NOAA-CNEXO Report.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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NOAA. 1987. A Summary of Selected Data on Chemical Contaminants in Tissues Collected During 1984, 1985, and 1986. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 38. Ocean Assessment Division, Office of Oceanography and Marine Assessment, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Rockville, Md.

NOAA. 1989. A Summary of Data on Tissue Contamination From the First Three Years (1986-1988) of the Mussel Watch Project. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 49, Ocean Assessment Division, Office of Oceanography and Marine Assessment, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Rockville, Md.

NOAA. 1990. Estuaries of the United States: Vital Statistics of a National Resource Base. NOAA, Strategic Assessment Branch, Rockville, Md.

NOAA. 1991. Second Summary of Data on Chemical Contaminants in Sediments From the National Status and Trends Program. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 59, Rockville, Md.

Sowles, J., R. Crawford, J. Machell, G. Atkinson, P. Hennigar, S. Jones, J. Pederson, and K. Coombs. 1992. Evaluation of Gulfwatch. 1991 Pilot Project of the Gulf of Maine Marine Environmental Monitoring Plan. The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Boston, Mass.

Widdows, J., P. Donkin, and S.V. Evans. 1987. Physiological responses of Mytilus edulis during chronic oil exposure and recovery. Marine Environmental Research 23:15-32.

Widdows, J. 1985. Physiological responses to pollution. Marine Pollution Bulletin 6:129-134.

Widdows, J., T. Bakke, B.L. Bayne, P. Donkin, D.R. Livingstone, D.M. Lowe, M.N. Moore, S.V. Evans, and S.L. Moore. 1982. Responses of Mytilus edulis on exposure to the water accommodated fraction of North Sea oil. Marine Biology 67:15-31.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Figure 1. Estuarine drainage areas in the Gulf of Maine (from Gottholm and Turgeon, 1992; NOAA, 1990).

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Figure 2. National Status and Trends Program monitoring sites within the Gulf of Maine (from Gottholm and Turgeon, 1992).

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Table 1 National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Data

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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USING INDICATORS OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE CONSIDERATIONS

Stephen H. Jones

Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Department of Natural Resources

University of New Hampshire

Indicators of environmental quality can serve many different purposes, depending on the inherent characteristics of the indicators chosen and the environment in which they are used. Indicators may be used to quantify contaminant concentrations in the environment, evaluate species and ecosystem effects of stressors, or to determine public health risks. Numerous efforts have been made in the Gulf of Maine to use indicators for addressing a variety of environmental quality issues, including the Mussel Watch program for monitoring contaminants (Goldberg, 1975; Lauenstein et al., 1990; O'Connor, 1991), and using bacterial indicators of fecal contamination and biotoxin analysis for assessing public health risks for shellfish consumption (Menon, 1988). However, there remains a need for more expanded research and monitoring programs to provide the understanding necessary for long-term environmental planning (Thurston and Larsen, 1994).

A key aspect of the use of indicators is the influence of the environment on the behavior, fate, spatial and temporal variability, and transport/movement of the indicators. Consideration of environmental science is essential when (1) identifying issues, stressors, and potential indicators; (2) developing conceptual frameworks of the linkage between indicators and stressors; (3) critically evaluating candidate indicators; (4) testing indicators in the target habitat(s) under appropriate environmental conditions; (5) designing monitoring plans, sampling methods, the logistics of coordinated field activities; (6) collection and integration of results with appropriate auxiliary environmental data; (7) interpretation of results, relating the results to the target issue; (8) communication of results to the public; and (9) incorporation of results into the process of policymaking. This paper describes how

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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environmental science considerations are incorporated into the process of creating useful indicators of environmental quality.

Creation and Development of Useful Indicators of Environmental Quality

Environmental science considerations are critical in the process of creating and developing candidate indicators of environmental quality in marine and estuarine environments. The issue being addressed needs to be defined clearly and is typically some aspect of the status, trends, sources, or effects of contaminants, stressors, or other risk to a target environment or resource. The overall goal and quality of data desired for using indicators will dictate the expense and time required to accomplish goals.

Seasonal, biological, hydrological, meteorological, and physico-chemical factors can cause a high level of variability in natural aquatic environments. The temporal and spatial extent of any study using indicators need to be a function of the need and capability to collect an adequate amount of scientifically-sound data. If the objective is to determine contaminant levels in an area, then it is important to determine the relationship between contaminant levels in the environment and levels in the indicator. If the objective is to protect public health, then it is also important to determine the relationship between contaminant levels in the indicator and biological effects in humans. Funding may limit goals and dictate whether a study should be a large program for determining the status and trends of all stressors in an area, or simply a monitoring study for determining if “hot spots ” of specific contaminants exist. The limitations of any chosen indicator must also be recognized for proper interpretation of results and ultimate application of results to solve management issues.

Selection of Indicators Suitable for Target Issues

A sound understanding of environmental conditions is essential for all steps undertaken during selection of an indicator. The first step is to identify potential indicators that are present in the target study area. Ideally, the indicator chosen will be abundant throughout the area. In larger areas, it may be necessary to use different, closely related indicators. If information for specific sites is required, a sedentary rather than a mobile indicator is usually chosen. Otherwise, information on residence time, persistence, and transport mechanisms within more general areas should be known. If the indicator is biological, information on biological availability and effects can be determined that is more relevant to human health issues than data only on contaminant concentrations in an ecological compartment. The expertise of eventual participants should also be considered during the initial screening of indicators, as well as the expenses of sample collection, analyses, and new equipment needs.

It is important to understand the behavior and characteristics of the contaminant, stressor, or combination of risk factors in the target environment. The physico-chemical properties of specific organic or inorganic contaminants will determine potential exposure

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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routes to indicators. The potential for a given contaminant to be accumulated from water and bioconcentrated in tissue is largely dependent on its water solubility. Many contaminants can be present in different chemical forms that have different properties in the environment. Mercury can be present as inorganic mercury or as methylmercury, and these forms may vary in relative abundance in different areas of an estuary (Widdows and Donkin, 1992). Temperature, salinity, and dissolved organic matter can affect the aqueous solubilities of both metals and organics. Particle-bound contaminants are generally less bioavailable than water column contaminants. However, indicators can be taken up by particles and can cause elevated levels of contamination, if particles are present when samples are analyzed. Contaminants in complex mixtures can interact and affect the availability and effects of individual contaminants on biological indicators.

The more that is known about a potential indicator, the easier it is to evaluate for a range of environmental conditions. Existing literature on environmental effects, biology (if appropriate), and previous use as an indicator should be reviewed. Sensitivity, response time, and scope of response to stressors are important characteristics for comparing different indicators. Biological indicators are more complex than abiotic indicators, but usually have greater relevancy to ecological and public health issues. The potential for bioconcentration in living organisms can also make detection of contaminants easier. However, interpretation of results for answering environmental quality issues may require more precision and thus more details about the biology of the indicator. For example, feeding mechanisms and rates, growth, reproductive conditions, sexual differences, effects of position in habitat, growth phase, size, metabolism of elimination or transformation of contaminants, nutrient sources, and routes of exposure can influence responses to stressors by individuals, populations, and communities. Whether an indicator species feeds on or is exposed to contaminated sediments, water, or plankton can affect exposure concentration and availability of contaminants. Temperature and salinity can have significant effects on exposure by influencing contaminant solubility, indicator growth and nutrient uptake rates, and nutrient abundance and quality. All of this information may be required to develop accurate diagnoses of biological and ecological responses of the indicator to chemical contaminants and stressors and to diagnose how the responses relate to responses of other important species in the area of focus.

Use of Indicators to Track Environmental Quality

Two of the most commonly used, and most commonly criticized, indicators of environmental quality have been used extensively in the Gulf of Maine. Mytilus edulis, the blue mussel, has been used as part of the Mussel Watch program (Gottholm and Turgeon, 1992) and the more localized Gulfwatch program (Sowles et al., 1992; 1994), for monitoring the levels of a wide range of contaminants in biota. Bacterial indicators of fecal contamination have been used for classifying shellfish-growing waters (Menon, 1988; Jones et al., 1992). Mussels are used below to illustrate how environmental science considerations are incorporated into indicator studies.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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The Gulfwatch program (Sowles et al., 1992) was started in 1991 as a pilot project by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment 's Monitoring Committee to begin fulfillment of the monitoring plan (GMCME, 1991). The plan was to provide information on the status, trends, and sources of ecological and human health risks in the Gulf of Maine. M. edulis was chosen based on many of the previously described considerations. M. edulis is abundant, with relatively good spatial coverage along the shorelines of the five jurisdictions bordering the gulf. However, in some areas mixed populations of M. edulis and Mytilus trossulus occurred, so differentiation of the two species was necessary. A great deal of literature on the biology, environmental effects, and use of M. edulis as an indicator was available for review. Because the level of expertise of observers ranged widely, it was important that mussels could be collected easily with minimal technical requirements. Mussels are capable of providing data on both contaminant levels in biota, and biological responses to contaminants. Their sedentary nature allowed for determination of site-specific sources of risks in the gulf, and some key sites could be monitored by transplanting mussels in cages to these sites. With a limited budget, monitoring mussels appeared to be the best indicator for assessing gulf-wide environmental health.

The size of the Gulf of Maine posed some environment-related logistical problems for the project. As with any study designed to collect comparative data at different locations, standardization of sample collection methods and timing was an important consideration. However, the significant differences in water temperature between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia waters cause differences in the timing of peak mussel activity, spawning, and phytoplankton blooms/food source availability at the different sites. Thus, sample collection was timed to occur at times when local conditions were roughly equal at the different sites. Collection occurred within an hour of low-tide and at least three days after any storm/runoff event to avoid excessive inorganic particle loading in the mussels. The wide range in tidal elevation between jurisdictional areas was recognized as an important environmental factor, and all sample sites were subtidal to avoid the variability associated with growth at different tidal elevations. Other site-specific criteria included using only sites adjacent to the mainland that have minimal exposure to waves and direct freshwater inflow. Further standardization of procedures included using mussels between 50-60 mm in length, collecting and subsampling standard numbers of replicates, using standard sample collection and preparation methods, using single labs for analysis of either metals or organic contaminants, and using the same procedures for measuring growth and/or condition index. The study has included sampling of indigenous mussels, as well as 60-day deployments of caged mussels for assessing spatial differences and to identify sources of contaminants.

The results of three years of monitoring has produced useful data on spatial trends and sources of contaminants in the gulf. Health action levels were generally not exceeded, but some unusually high levels of contaminants spurred immediate action. Small sample sizes and a limited number of sites made comparisons among sites difficult, although there was a definite southward trend of increasing contaminant concentrations in each of the first two years. Comparisons of results to National Status and Trends results indicated good agreement between studies at common sites (Sowles et al., 1992). Mistakes and problems encountered necessitated adjustment of protocols and objectives during the first two years,

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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resulting in a standardized, long-term program by the third year. Caution should be exercised when using the results because three years is a short time for assessing temporal trends, and the changes in protocols make comparisons between some data difficult. Overall, results identified locations of some hot spots, a spatial trend, protocol problems to be corrected, and further scientific questions to be answered.

The Gulfwatch program is a useful example of how environmental science considerations are a critical component of using indicators. However, M. edulis has well-documented limitations, and use of other indicators is necessary for comprehensively assessing the environmental health of the Gulf of Maine. Problems in one area have impacts on the whole system. Thus, monitoring and use of indicators on a gulf-wide basis, with careful considerations of environmental science, needs to be expanded. With clearly defined goals and supportive research, such programs can be the basis for management strategies that can solve some of the critical problems of the region.

References

Goldberg, E.D. 1975. The Mussel Watch- A first in global marine monitoring. Marine Pollution Bulletin 6:111.

Gottholm, B.W., and D.D. Turgeon. 1992. Toxic Contaminants in the Gulf of Maine. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Rockville, Md.

Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment (GMCME). 1991. The Gulf of Maine Monitoring Program, An Initial Plan. Maine Planning Office, Augusta, Maine.

Jones, S.H., F.T. Short, and M. Webster. 1992. Pollution. Pp. 50-84 in An Estuarine Profile and Bibliography of Great Bay, New Hampshire, F.T. Short, ed. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Rockville, Md.

Lauenstein, G.G., A. Robertson, and T.P. O'Connor. 1990. Comparison of trace metal data in mussels and oysters from a Mussel Watch programme of the 1970s with those from a 1980s programme. Marine Pollution Bulletin 21:440-447.

Menon, A.S. 1988. Molluscan shellfish and water quality in Atlantic Canada. Toxicity Assessment 3:679-686.

O'Connor, T.P. 1991. Concentrations of organic contaminants in mollusks and sediments at NOAA National Status and Trend sites in the coastal and estuarine United States. Environmental Health Perspectives 90:69-73.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Sowles, J., R. Crawford, J. Machell, G. Atkinson, P. Hennigar, S. Jones, J. Pederson, and K. Coombs. 1992. Evaluation of Gulfwatch: 1991 Pilot Project of the Gulf Maine Marine Environmental Monitoring Plan. The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Boston, Mass.

Sowles, J., R. Crawford, J. Machell, G. Atkinson, P. Hennigar, S. Jones, J. Pederson, and K. Coombs. 1994. Evaluation of Gulfwatch: 1992 Pilot Project of the Gulf Maine Marine Environmental Monitoring Plan. The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Boston, Mass.

Thurston, H., and P. Larsen. 1994. Gulf of Maine State of the Environment Fact Sheet: Marine Environmental Quality in the Gulf of Maine. The Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Boston, Mass.

Widdows, J., and P. Donkin. 1992. Mussels and environmental contaminants: Bioaccumulation and physiological aspects. Pp. 383-424 in The Mussel Mytilus: Ecology, Physiology, Genetics and Culture, E. Gosling, ed. Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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ECONOMIC ISSUES IN MONITORING MARINE WATER QUALITY

David G. Terkla

Department of Economics and

Environmental Sciences Program

University of Massachusetts Boston

Introduction

Currently, most state and local expenditures on marine monitoring are focused on human health issues—protecting people from contact with contaminated waters or contaminated fish and shellfish. In addition, there is substantial monitoring activity aimed at ensuring private and public sector compliance with environmental regulations. There are a few areas of the country that are developing, or have recently developed, monitoring programs focused around measuring ecosystem health—in particular, Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Gulf of Maine, and Buzzards Bay.

Despite existing expenditures, marine monitoring programs are still criticized for providing insufficient information to support sound environmental management decisions (Committee on a Systems Assessment of Marine Environmental Monitoring, 1990). Moreover, this same study notes that many monitoring programs have not been adequately linked to environmental research programs designed to identify pollution sources and the transport, fate, and final effects of pollution on the environment. Consequently, the usefulness of their results to decisionmakers and to the general public concerned with the health of marine waters has been limited.

Thus, this appears to be an area ripe for exploring ways of improving the interaction between scientists and managers. While some may find the lack of monitoring coordination,

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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limited usefulness to environmental managers, and inability to predict systematically future water quality changes to be obvious deficiencies in marine monitoring, others may not be so certain. Inevitably, resources for marine monitoring must compete against alternative funding priorities. Thus, it is important to be more precise about the benefits of marine monitoring, in order to give decisionmakers a clearer sense of what can be gained from having a good marine monitoring program in place.

This issue paper begins with a discussion of the general purposes for monitoring the marine environment. This discussion is then followed by a more general discussion of how monitoring can contribute to the economically efficient allocation of resources within the context of environmental management. Finally, a framework is briefly described that can be used for developing monitoring priorities and for determining optimal expenditures on monitoring activities. Such a framework could improve the interaction among managers, and natural and social scientists in designing useful marine monitoring programs. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the socioeconomic trends that should be “monitored” in conjunction with environmental monitoring.

Reasons for Monitoring

Monitoring marine water quality can be used for three primary purposes: (1) measuring the compliance of effluent dischargers with existing regulations; (2) gathering information about the status and trends of ecosystem resources; and (3) evaluating existing environmental management regulations. Although most monitoring is currently carried out with the compliance goal in mind, there are several important reasons why information and evaluation monitoring should also be conducted.

Information monitoring can assist in the identification of the onshore sources of particular pollutants. Such identification is vital for determining where to focus management policy to reduce the loading of particular pollutants. For example, if a particular marine pollutant is determined to come predominately from atmospheric deposition or from a particular river basin, this information has substantial implications for how the emission of this pollutant should be controlled.

Information monitoring is also vital for determining the amount of particular pollutants that should be controlled. In the case of any pollutant, including those to marine waters, the economically efficient amount of emission reduction is at the point at which the cost of an additional unit of the pollutant to society (in terms of damages to the ecosystem) is equal to the cost of preventing this unit of pollutant from occurring or of capturing it before it enters the environment. In other words, pollution prevention or cleanup at a cost greater than the value of the environmental improvement resulting from the reduction in pollution is a waste of society's resources, as is the failure to reduce the level of a pollutant if the cost of doing so is less than the damage caused by the pollutant.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Understanding the processes by which a particular pollutant causes damage to the marine environment is crucial for determining how efficiently society is allocating its scarce pollution management resources. Monitoring is necessary to parameterize water quality models, which are designed to predict damage to marine environments from exposure to various pollutants. Even if optimal pollution cleanup in an economic sense is not the goal, such information can help to identify the most cost efficient method for controlling the chosen amount of pollutant.

Data quantifying the benefits of end-of-the-line treatment technologies should be compared against the cost and likely benefits of alternative pollution prevention options. Information monitoring can help to determine whether or not particular pollution controls are effectively limiting key pollutants to the marine environment, or whether such controls are unnecessary, excessive, or even misplaced, given the transport and fate characteristics of the pollutant once it reaches the marine environment. Such information can save large expenditures on pollution control that would otherwise be wasted by being directed to the wrong source, the wrong pollutant, or the wrong geographic location.

Finally, information monitoring is also useful for evaluating marine ecosystem health in general. This is particularly important for understanding how pollutants interact with the system and for anticipating likely reactions of the system to changes in the levels of these pollutants. The ability to predict likely impacts on the marine ecosystem early enough to take action to prevent significant deleterious impact has benefits beyond the obvious ones to the ecosystem. Substantial resources can be saved by altering structures or development when they are first being planned, in order to minimize environmental impacts, as opposed to having to modify such structures once they are already in place. Many examples, such as combined sewer overflows and contaminated sediments that have led to very high dredging and disposal costs, can be cited where more knowledge beforehand would have saved substantial resources today.

Monitoring for the purposes of evaluating the adequacy of existing regulatory procedures is quite rare. Usually resources are so constrained that determining the effectiveness of existing regulations in achieving their desired goals is too low of a priority to merit much funding. However, evaluation of existing regulations is a good reason for monitoring, and much of the information necessary for such evaluation could probably be collected in the normal monitoring process. The benefits of such an evaluation could include the improvement of pollution control effectiveness and greater protection of marine resources through a redirection of environmental management policies, as well as a more efficient allocation of limited enforcement resources.

Setting Monitoring Priorities

In the case of compliance monitoring, the cost of monitoring for enforcement of particular regulations is a crucial variable. From an economic point of view, it is efficient to reduce the level of pollutant emissions, as long as the cost of reduction in pollution

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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(including monitoring required for enforcement as well as abatement costs) is less than the reduction in damage and pollution avoidance costs that result from the cleanup. Therefore, the higher enforcement monitoring costs, less pollution reduction is justified.

This does not imply that minimizing government monitoring costs should be an end goal. There may be several pollution abatement strategies, each associated with particular monitoring requirements, that could achieve a desired level of water quality. If managers were to choose the alternative that minimizes public agency monitoring costs, it might induce greater private abatement expenditures, so that the combination of abatement and monitoring costs would be greater than for an alternative abatement strategy that involves greater monitoring costs, but lower private abatement expenditures.

For example, one way to lower government monitoring costs is to impose particular pollution control technology requirements on sources of pollution, and then assume the adoption of these technologies will reduce pollution loadings by some amount, as predicted by engineering models. One problem with this approach is that these models usually assume optimal equipment performance; yet there is no incentive on the part of the polluter to maintain the equipment properly. Thus, far greater pollution control may be assumed by regulators than is actually taking place. Moreover, it might be much cheaper to allow the polluter to reduce pollution loadings through alternative changes in production processes or by the adoption of alternative pollution technologies. While such an option will require greater monitoring of ambient water quality, it may be a much cheaper use of society 's resources and may result in much improved water quality, since the level of water quality is measured rather than assumed on the part of the water pollution authority.

The same conceptual framework can be used for setting priorities and determining the optimal amount of information monitoring. For example, in the case of shellfish monitoring, federal and state regulations govern the frequency and type of monitoring required in order to enable a shellfish bed to be harvested. Any beds that are not monitored are automatically closed and referred to as management closures. The decision to increase monitoring of such management closures should be based on (1) a comparison of the cost of such monitoring and (2) the likely benefits produced by additional monitoring. These benefits would include (1) the possible opening of the bed (if monitoring found acceptable levels of fecal coliform), the value of which would be the recreational benefit generated by additional shellfish resources or, (2) in the case of a commercial bed, the market value of additional shellfish harvested from the bed.

Conclusion

One of the first steps in improving the link between traditional environmental monitoring and environmental management should be the greater use of economic methods for prioritizing and allocating scarce marine monitoring resources. Implicit in the greater use of this framework, however, is greater knowledge of particular socioeconomic trends that are related to environmental conditions. In order to prioritize pollution reduction or prevention

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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efforts, managers need to know the value society places on changes in the status of particular marine resources, which information monitoring reveals are most likely to be affected by changes in pollution levels. For the many marine resources that are not traded in the marketplace, this involves “monitoring” the public's valuation through occasional use surveys and selected contingent valuation surveys of key resources.

Another area where socioeconomic monitoring is crucial is in completing the linkage between changing land-use patterns and impacts on the marine ecosystem. While information monitoring can help determine how changing levels of emissions are likely to affect marine waters, predicting how such emissions are likely to change requires socioeconomic information. Such data include demographic projections, local economic development studies that predict likely changes in industry mix, and build-out analyses that can predict likely changes in residential development. Improving the usefulness of marine monitoring requires the collection of such data in addition to the more efficient prioritizing of marine monitoring activities.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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USING INDICATORS OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY IN POLICYMAKING: PROMISE AND PITFALLS

Charles S. Colgan

Edmund S. Muskie Institute of Public Affairs

University of Southern Maine

The proliferation of efforts to institute “indicators of environmental quality” in policymaking grows from several different needs. These efforts may result in improving environmental quality over time, but whether or not they do so depends on several factors. First, and most importantly, the indicators have to bear as close a relationship as possible to underlying natural and social changes; the old computer programmers ' aphorism “garbage in, garbage out” applies here as well. But even if reliable and accurate indicators are found, integrating them into policy-making decisions will be just as difficult, if not more so. This paper briefly outlines some of the features of the policy-making process that those interested in using environmental indicators need to keep in mind.

An important issue in shaping the development of indicator series is what stage in the policy-making process the information is designed to assist. Three broad categories of policy decisions can use indicators: (1) agenda setting, (2) policy development, and (3) policy reform. Agenda setting is the stage when questions of changes in environmental quality are raised and decisions made about whether policy responses should be considered. At this stage, issues of environmental change compete most intensely with other pressing needs for policy attention. Public involvement is also critical, so indicators should be as comprehensible to a broad public as possible. The most useful indicators at this stage are those which can be analogized to the “vital signs” used in medical diagnosis such as body temperature, pulse rate, and blood pressure. Such indicators do not permit a complete understanding of the problem, but do indicate that a problem exists to which attention must be directed.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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At the policy development stage, indicators can be much more detailed and should be directed towards defining, as clearly as possible, the problem to be addressed by policy responses. There is an inevitable clash, however, between the policymakers' need for certainty that they are choosing the correct responses, and the uncertainty inherent in the information about environmental policy collected by natural and social scientists. While long-term monitoring programs can provide adequate data, the need for decisions often predates the availability of such long-term data by months or years. This is particularly the case with broad-scale vital signs that are the most useful in the first stage, since linking cause and effect can be the most difficult with these indicators, and it is the cause-effect relationship that is most critical at the development stage.

In the third stage, policy reform, monitoring information is critical. Ideally, at the same time that policy is being formulated, indicators of success are also being identified. Thus, the implementation of policy includes the actions that will be taken (regulations, expenditures, programs, etc.) and the measures of environmental quality, which will indicate whether the policy actions chosen have the expected effects. These indicator series will build on those created for earlier stages, filling information gaps that become apparent during policy development and extending the knowledge base as far as possible.

The use of indicators to measure performance is an important emerging trend in public policy. A number of states, including Oregon and Minnesota, have already developed and implemented comprehensive indicator series for state policy, including environmental policies. Other states, such as Texas and Maine, are currently preparing indicators. The use of indicators in this way raises some important additional questions of goals, performance measures, and benchmarks. Goals can be defined as statements describing the outcomes in which policy should result. Performance measures, another name for indicators, are the data series that will be used to measure progress towards goals. Benchmarks (a term that is frequently and confusingly used to include goals and performance measures) identifies the reference point from which change is measured. In this context, indicators are transformed from information about what is happening to what should be happening. This transition from positive to normative uses will be difficult for many scientists, who are by training and habit not used to dealing with such questions.

The use of indicators in this manner highlights that indicators are not simply a scientific exercise, but are part of a political process. Information is power, and power matters in making public policy. Thus, another emerging trend in public policy making, with implications for indicators, is to redesign the policy development process so that affected interest groups and the general public are involved in discussion and decisions at the earliest stages possible. The development of indicators thus becomes a part of the give and take negotiations characteristic of political processes, which results in something of a tradeoff between the mandates of “good science” and policy, which has a high probability of being acceptable to the various affected stakeholders. This tradeoff can be minimized if efforts are made to educate everyone involved in the process, specialists and nonspecialists alike, but it can never be eliminated entirely.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Indicator efforts are notable not only for their increasing role in setting and reforming policy, but also for their integration of information from a variety of disciplines into a coherent picture of the environment, including changes in both natural and social systems. The connection between economic and natural systems receives particular attention in indicator development proposals. This emphasis is a natural outgrowth of the desire to use indicators in the development of policy, since changes in the production or distribution of goods and services are one of the principle motivators in moving issues onto the policy agenda.

However, using both economic and natural systems indicators raises some additional difficulties. Ideally, indicator series should be structured so that changes in natural systems are identified and then linked to changes in economic systems. Feedback effects are then identified. For example, one would want to know whether changes in pollutant levels in coastal waters were affecting fisheries, recreation, find the desirability of living in coastal areas. To make this determination requires information on pollutant levels and the economic value of coastal resources. It also requires an understanding of how pollution may affect the other resources and whether and how people perceive the connections between the changes in the natural systems and the goods and services they value. Only when people correctly perceive the changes, are they able to place a value on them.

While essential to a complete understanding of the complex systems that policy seeks to manage, the use of economic values as indicators will also create some difficulties. Most economic data measure the value of natural resources in terms of their role in market transactions, for example fisheries. Regularly available economic data concentrate on those aspects of economics of greatest interest to policymakers, including employment, income, industrial output, and real estate prices. Yet it has been long established that the value of natural resources is only partly determined in market transactions, and that a great deal of that value must be measured through indirect means, such as the constructed market simulations, using surveys that economists call contingent valuation. Such data are increasingly being collected, but only on a case-by-case basis. Information collected on such a piecemeal basis raises serious issues of transferability to other areas. At the same time, the expense of such studies makes it very difficult to collect these kinds of data on a regular basis as part of a monitoring or indicator program.11

Economic and environmental indicators are becoming an essential part of public policymaking. All public policy is being challenged to demonstrate performance, and indicators will play a critical role. Environmental policy is increasingly challenged, not just to deal with discrete sources of pollution, but to manage entire ecosystems, and indicators are the only way that key information about complex systems can be gathered and transmitted to the policymakers who must make key decisions. Environmental policy is also increasingly being linked to the concept of “sustainable development,” explicitly forcing an integration of

11  

For a discussion of the issues surrounding economic valuation and the natural sciences, see Colgan, C.S. (ed.). 1994. Sustaining Coastal Resources: The Roles of the Sciences and Economics. University of Southern Maine, Portland.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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economic and environmental policy, and indicators will be essential to understanding these links.

But indicators are not a panacea, capable on their own of mutating policy dross into policy gold. The recent expansion of interest in using indicators should be viewed with a cautionary note. Public policy making is as prone to fads as any endeavor, and history is littered with such great policy reforms as program-planning budgeting and zero-based budgeting. An important factor in determining whether indicators will fall into this category or not will be how well those who prepare indicators can link them to the needs and processes of policy development.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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ISSUE GROUP SUMMARY

Chairs: Theodore Loder (University of New Hampshire)

Facilitator: Judith Pederson (Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management)

Rapporteur: Michael Orbach (Duke University)

Other Participants: Mimi Becker (University of New Hampshire), Robert Bowen (University of Massachusetts), Eugenia Braasch (Dartmouth College), Charles Colgan (University of Southern Maine), Ames Colt (Tufts University), Michael Connor (Massachusetts Water Resources Authority), James Ellsworth (Environment Canada), Edward Goldberg (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Gareth Harding (Bedford Institute of Oceanography), Lewis Incze (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences), Stephen Jones (University of New Hampshire), Curt Mason (NOAA Center for Coastal Ecosystem Health), Judith McDowell (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), J. Kevin Summers (EPA), Laura Taylor (Maine State Planning Office), David Terkla (University of Massachusetts), David Townsend (University of Maine), Donna Turgeon (NOAA/NOS), Herb Vandermuelen (Environment Canada), and Robert Wall (University of Maine).

Introduction

No public policy concerning the environment, and no collaboration between scientists and policymakers, can be complete without a program that monitors both the condition of the environment and the effects of policies and regulations on it. Although the construction of any detailed program to accomplish these objectives was beyond the scope of the group's discussions, we have identified some important aspects of the monitoring of indicators of environmental quality, and certain critical characteristics for the establishment of such programs.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Indicators of environmental quality are monitored for several different purposes—to gather information about the status and trends in the ecosystem, to evaluate the effects of policy and management programs, and to monitor compliance with existing regulations (Terkla, this volume, pp. 211-215). We define indicators of environmental quality very broadly to include both natural and social scientific measures. Although the monitoring of a wide range of characteristics is required for various scientific research and management purposes, we will confine ourselves here to the concept of “indicators.” We define an “indicator” as a signal of an environmental/social condition that may indicate the need for further investigation or remedial action with respect to a specific problem or issue.

Including social science parameters as indicators of environmental quality is unusual, but is warranted, because it is important to measure public perception of what constitutes environmental quality and in monitoring its attainment or nonattainment. Policymakers need to know this information in order to be responsive to the public. Natural and social scientists can work with policymakers to educate the public about what conditions are harmful and about the causes of these conditions, so that the perception and reality of environmental quality can eventually converge.

A complete set of indicators of environmental quality for the Gulf of Maine ecosystem should encompass the environmental quality of the watershed of the Gulf, as well as its estuarine and marine portions. The material presented below is intended as a sample rather than a complete set of such indicators, but it is important to note that indicators should be monitored across as much of the ecosystem as possible. More detailed comments on various aspects of the monitoring of environmental indicators are contained in papers by Jones (natural science, pp. 205-210), Terkla (social science, pp. 211-215), and Colgan (policy and administration, pp. 217-220) in this volume.

The use of indicators of environmental quality is an evolving field (Bayne et al., 1988; Stebbing et al., 1992). The exact relationship of an indicator to an environmental problem is not always known. More investigation is often necessary before most potential indicators can be used as measures of environmental disturbance. Although some characteristics now measured by scientists could be used successfully as indicators, there is often little or no incentive to make this information available in a form useful to policymakers. Furthermore, scientists are often unaware of the needs of the policymakers for specific data or information. At present, few indicators of environmental quality are monitored in the Gulf of Maine. Some are monitored, but the information is not effectively assembled and communicated to the potential users, or is of insufficient quality. For some environmental quality issues, indicators are simply not available. For most monitoring programs, the support in terms of budgets, infrastructure, and expertise is insufficient.

In the Gulf of Maine region, the potential users of monitoring information include local, state or provincial, and federal regulatory agencies, concerned stakeholders, and regional programs (such as the Regional Association for Research in the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of Maine Regional Marine Research Board, and the Gulf of Maine Council on the

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Marine Environment). Some progress has been made at local, state/provincial, regional, and international levels on monitoring programs, but much work remains to be done.

The Objectives of the Monitoring of Environmental Indicators

For the purpose of this section we identified three objectives for the use of environmental indicators. These are:

  1. to identify the impacts of human activity on human health;

  2. to identify anthropogenic effects on the sustainability and integrity of ecosystems; and

  3. to identify impediments (including, but not limited to, anthropogenic effects) to the sustainable harvest of the ecosystem resources.

Indicators are intended to supply relevant, efficient, cost-effective information (see Terkla, this volume, pp. 211-215). For any potential indicator, the data collection program should clearly specify:

  1. the problem or issue that the indicator is intended to address and the conceptual and practical linkage between the indicator and the problem or issue;

  2. the methods of data collection for the indicator, including quality control mechanisms;

  3. the storage and retrieval systems needed for the data;

  4. the end users of the information; and

  5. the uncertainty inherent in the data.

Existing and Potential Indicators of Environmental Quality for the Gulf of Maine

The group identified, for each of the objectives listed above, potential natural and social scientific indicators of environmental quality. These lists are not exhaustive, nor is detail given for the specific data elements that should be monitored for each indicator. General categories of measurements are listed below, for which specific variables might be identified as appropriate indicators.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Objective #1—Human Health Impacts of Human Activity

Currently used indicators include fecal bacterial counts, shellfish biotoxins, anthropogenic chemical contaminants, and radionuclides. Potential indicators include endocrine disrupters, viruses and specific pathogens, biochemical or cellular biomarkers, and human illness.

Objective #2—Anthropogenic Effects on the Sustainability and Integrity of Ecosystems

Currently used indicators include benthic community structure, species abundance and diversity, eutrophication, sediment quality, and water quality. Potential indicators are sea bird community diversity and structure; shellfish toxin (microtox) tests; biochemical and cellular biomarkers; endocrine disrupters; and habitat alteration.

Objective #3—Sustainable Harvest of Ecosystem Resources by Humans

Indicators that are used to contribute to assessments of the sustainability of ecosystem resources include commercial fish and shellfish landings; fish stock assessments; the number, duration, and location of contaminant-related closures of beaches and harvesting areas; land-use patterns; analysis of beach debris collected during cleanup activities; and reported spills. Potential indicators include recreational fish landings (not measured accurately now), patterns and value of leisure and tourism expenditures related to ecosystem resources (including intangibles such as aesthetics), public perception of sustainability, and dredging restrictions (as an indicator of contamination potential).

Characteristics of Successful Monitoring Programs

Drawing on a discussion of the successes and shortcomings of existing monitoring programs (i.e., Mussel Watch and Gulf Watch, see Jones, this volume, pp. 205-210), the following characteristics of successful programs were identified (with no order of priority):

  • clear, specific, easily measurable variables or indices as the indicators,

  • clear legal mandates specifying authority and responsibility for the collection of data,

  • specific guidelines and methodology for the data collection,

  • citizen involvement and/or public support (high public demand),

  • economic dependence of stakeholders on the outcome of monitoring,

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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  • monitoring and regulatory authority in the same or clearly linked agencies, and

  • demonstrable relationship between any environmental alteration and the indicator used to measure the degree or extent of the problem.

In addition to the above characteristics, several factors appear to hinder the relationship between monitoring agencies, scientists, and the policy/management process with respect to the monitoring and use of environmental indicators.

  • Data resulting from the monitoring may be of low or uncertain quality.

  • The best quality data may not be useful unless appropriately analyzed, synthesized, interpreted, and communicated.

  • The uncertainty or other qualifications inherent in interpreting a data set may not be communicated to the users adequately.

  • The appropriate data storage and retrieval system may not be available.

  • The time lag between the identification of the information need and the ability of the monitoring system to supply the data may be too great to allow timely resolution of the problem.

  • Our present knowledge of any specific ecosystem and its components may be insufficient to identify effective indicators.

Ways to Improve the Interaction Between Scientists and Policymakers

The monitoring of indicators of environmental quality, both natural and social, is an integral part of good environmental policy and management and is critical to the relationship between scientists and policymakers. To ensure that such monitoring programs are effective and efficient as possible, the following principles should be observed:

  1. Communicate the results of monitoring programs to as many audiences as possible, including policymakers, regulators, the public, and other stakeholders. This will help the integration of social and environmental monitoring information into the policy and management process, and will educate as well as inform participants in the policy process.

  2. Provide appropriate lead times for the development and implementation of monitoring programs. This will help assure that pertinent information will be forthcoming in an appropriate time frame.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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  1. Involve both natural and social scientists in all phases of the monitoring program—agenda setting, policy development, and policy reform (see Colgan, this volume, pp. 217-220).

  2. Create a dialogue among the scientists, monitoring agencies, policymakers, regulators, and relevant publics in agenda setting, policy development, and policy reform with respect to monitoring programs. Such a dialogue might be facilitated through such entities as state Sea Grant programs, regional science centers, or cooperative agreements between agencies and universities or private firms and organizations.

  3. Provide for basic scientific research, independent of regulatory agencies or specific constituencies, and assure peer review of programs and program products.

  4. Further develop the potential for coordination of the research and monitoring programs under the memorandum of understanding among the Regional Association for Research in the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of Maine Regional Marine Research Board, and the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, including the potential for citizen monitoring of appropriate indicators. The continuation of the present binational aspect of such programs is critical.

  5. Where feasible, scientists and policymakers should be encouraged to predict the range of possible conclusions that might be drawn from monitoring data, so that the range of potential actions needed can be anticipated. Errors in prediction may occur, when human health or impacts that are difficult to reverse are risked; it may be prudent to respond even though monitoring results are not fully conclusive.

Implementation of the above suggestions could prepare coastal managers and scientists for the efficient use of new indicators of coastal environmental health as they are developed. These actions will also involve the public in the environmental policy process, of which monitoring is a tool.

References

Bayne, B.L., K.R. Clarke, and J.S. Gray (eds.). 1988. Biological effects of pollutants. Results of a practical workshop. Marine Ecology Progress Series 46(1-3):1-278.

Stebbing, A.R.D., V. Dethlefsen, and M. Carr (eds.). 1992. Biological effects of contaminants in the North Sea. Results of the ICES/IOC Bremerhaven Workshop. Marine Ecology Progress Series 91(1-3):1-361.

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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APPENDIXES

Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 220
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 221
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 222
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 223
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 224
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 225
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
Page 226
Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Using Indicators of Enviromental Quality as a Tool to Maintain the Gulf of Maine." National Research Council. 1995. Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9151.
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Next: Appendix A: Agenda »
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