U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

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Recipients List

Integrated Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change

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Introduction

In this announcement the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), invites research grant applications in the following areas of special interest to its mission:

This invitation provides relevant background information, summarizes EPA's interest in the topic areas, and describes the application and review process.

Background

This Request for Applications (RFA) describes programmatic areas which are a part of the EPA STAR (Science to Achieve Results) 1999 solicitation. Additional program topic areas and joint programs with the National Science Foundation and other agencies will be announced separately.

EPA Mission and R & D Strategy

The mission of EPA is to protect both environmental quality and human health through effective regulations and other policy initiatives. Achievement of this mission requires the application of sound science to assessment of environmental problems and to evaluation of possible solutions. A significant challenge is to support both long-term research that anticipates future environmental problems as well as research that fills gaps in knowledge relevant to meeting current Agency goals. Requests for Applications issued by the STAR Program are an important mechanism for promoting a sound scientific foundation for environmental protection.

EPA's research programs focus on reduction of risks to human health and ecosystems and on the reduction of uncertainty associated with risk assessment. Through its laboratories and through grants to academic and other not-for-profit institutions, EPA promotes research in both domains, according the highest priority to those areas in which risk assessors are most in need of new concepts, methods, and data. EPA also fosters the development and evaluation of new risk reduction technologies across a spectrum, from pollution prevention through end-of-pipe controls to remediation and monitoring. In all areas, EPA is interested in research that recognizes issues relating to environmental justice, the concept of achieving equal protection from environmental and health hazards for all people without regard to race, economic status, or culture.

EPA's extramural research grant program, the STAR Program, is administered by ORD's National Center for Environmental Research (NCER). The individual topic areas are discussed below.

RESEARCH TOPICS

1. INTEGRATED ASSESSMENT OF THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES ON THE UNITED STATES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND CLIMATE VARIABILITY

BACKGROUND: A major responsibility of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is to quantify the potential consequences of climate change and climate variability for human health, natural ecosystems, and economic activity. Both positive and negative consequences need to be identified. The enabling legislation of the Global Climate Research Act of 1990 mandates that the USGCRP ". . . prepare and submit to the President of the United States an assessment which--

(1) integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings;

(2) analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biodiversity; and

(3) analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years."

To fulfill this mandate, the USGCRP is conducting the first National Assessment of the "Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change on the United States" that will deliver a report to Congress in January 2000. The assessment will contain a National Synthesis Report, 19 Regional Assessments, an assessment of the potential consequences of climate variability and change for Native Americans, and five Sectoral Studies focusing on human health, coastal zones, water resources, agriculture and forests (see http://www.USGCRP.gov). This assessment process will be periodically repeated as new scientific information becomes available.

In addition to supporting the National Assessment Process, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports research to develop and implement methodologies for the integrated assessment of the potential consequences of climate variability and change on human health, ecosystems, and economic systems. A first set of regional-scale integrated assessments was funded by EPA's STAR Program in Fiscal Year 1996 (FY 96). Five competitive research grants were funded. These assessments were sector/system specific (e.g., water resources, agriculture, public health, etc.) and integrated "vertically" from climate scenarios/models to hydrologic models, ecosystem models, and other physical/biological models, as appropriate, and then finally to economic models.

The purpose of this new solicitation by the EPA is to continue support of research that further advances the development of approaches for conducting integrated assessments of the potential consequences of climate variability and change on the United States. The intent of this second solicitation is to encourage assessments that integrate "horizontally" as well as vertically; i.e., assessments that assess the consequences of climate variability and change across sectors/systems. Also, it is intended that these assessments focus on a finer geographic scale than the first-round of FY 96 STAR grants.

DESCRIPTION: Integrated assessments are studies which investigate individual components of a larger system (e.g., changes in regional climate; changes in the hydrologic cycle; physical and biological effects; economic impacts) and then show how changes in the individual components interact and affect other parts of the system. The objective of this solicitation is to conduct a series of integrated assessments of the potential consequences of climate variability and change on small geographic locations (i.e., a sub-regional level) within the United States. They should identify and illuminate climate change impacts that are best assessed at fine geographic scales and that are of potentially significant environmental, social, and/or economic importance. (These assessments are not intended to duplicate the regional assessments that are currently being conducted as part of the first USGCRP National Assessment Process.)

These assessments must integrate both "horizontally" across sectors and "vertically" from the climate system through to socioeconomic impacts. By integrating horizontally, these assessments should begin to identify and illuminate climate change impacts which when considered jointly are likely to identify important interactions that would alter conclusions about the vulnerability of a locality or resource to climate change. The assessments should integrate across impact categories, sectors and systems such as human health, air quality, water resources (both quantity and quality), ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity, agriculture and aquaculture, forests and vegetation, coastal zones, tourism and recreation, social systems, and economic systems. For example, a proposed assessment might examine the potential consequences of climate variability and change on the San Francisco Bay area. Such an assessment might integrate "horizontally" to capture the potential impacts on coastal areas (due to sea level rise), human health, urban air quality, urban drinking water supplies, agriculture, wetlands, freshwater fisheries and recreational fishing, and hydropower. It would not be sufficient to link changes in climate to changes in forests and human uses for the forests, such as local opportunities for viewing selected bird species; it would also be necessary to extend the assessment to integrate the effects of other sectors/systems, such as water resources, agriculture, and the local economy.
This assessment would also integrate "vertically" from climate scenarios/models to hydrologic models, ecosystem models, and other physical/biological models, as appropriate, and then finally to economic models. It is not sufficient to provide an assessment of the potential physical changes in the environment that might result from climate variability and change; it is also necessary to assess the potential consequences for human uses of the environment and for society.

Whereas the previous 1996 Request for Applications (RFA) focused on regions such as the southeastern U.S. or the corn belt, the geographic areas that might be considered for this RFA include large or small cities, such as Miami, FL, Des Moines, IA or Raleigh, NC; National Parks such as the Everglades, Rocky Mountain or Olympia; coastal areas such as Waquoit Bay, Mobile Bay or Gray's Harbor; small river basins such as Big Darby Creek, OH; or native and tribal lands. For the purposes of this RFA, we are not requesting proposals for large geographic areas, such as the mid-Atlantic region or the Mississippi watershed.

In addition, the assessments should be structured so that they address the following questions (also being addressed in the USGCRP National Assessment Process):

*What are the current conditions of resources, environmental/socioeconomic stresses, and issues of concern for the geographic area under investigation?

*How might climate variability and change exacerbate or ameliorate these conditions?

*What coping options exist that can build resilience to current environmental stresses, and also possibly lessen the impacts of climate variability and change (or take advantage of new opportunities presented by climate variability and change)?

*What are the priority research and information needs that can better prepare policy makers to reach wise decisions related to climate variability and change?
*What research is most important to complete over the short term? Over the long term?

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: The Principal Investigator must partner with a local stakeholder group that has particular interest in the outcome of the assessment. For example, this might be a Mayor's Office in a small municipality, a river commission within a watershed, or a non-governmental organization (NGO). A letter of support and cooperation from the partner for the assessment must accompany the application. In addition, an effective strategy for communicating the results of the assessment (the positive and negative consequences of climate change and variability across sectors) to affected stakeholders, and the public at large, must be included. The latter is not to exceed two pages and must be included within the 15 pages of allowable text for the proposal.

 


Funding: Up to $6 million is expected to be available in fiscal year 1999 for awards in this program. A proposal may request up to $300,000 per year for up to 3 years, and may not exceed these funding levels or time.

 

 


 

2. ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS RESEARCH

Background: The quality of human existence is known to depend on interacting biotic and abiotic resources within spatially and temporally dynamic ecosystems. Activities associated with expanding human populations alter these complex interactions and threaten ecosystem integrity and sustainability. Broadly interpreted, integrity refers to the degree to which an ecosystem demonstrates a balanced, resilient community of organisms with biological diversity, species composition, structural redundancy, and functional processes comparable to that of natural habitats in the same region. Sustainability simply refers to the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological integrity over time.

A major responsibility of EPA is to assess and prevent adverse impacts of human activities on ecosystems. Monitoring programs, such as EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), provide a means to detect existing and potential threats to ecosystem integrity. Yet, monitoring all components and interactions of an ecosystem is impractical, so certain variables must be used as indicators of ecosystem condition. In this context, an ecological indicator is a measure or index of measures that can be used to describe the condition of an ecosystem or one of its critical components or processes. The indicator may be related to, or derived from, measurements of variables that provide quantitative information on ecological structure and function. The indicator must be responsive to anthropogenic stressors and clearly linked to important societal values for the targeted resources. Ecological indicators may be used to address specific environmental values, to characterize ecosystem integrity and sustainability, or to identify sources of stress.

This request for applications is part of EMAP research and, as such, emphasizes the need for indicators useful in monitoring ecosystem integrity and sustainability, which will ultimately result in improved information for risk assessments. These may include indicators of current or future ecological condition and indicators that contribute information for understanding the causes of ecological impairment. Previous ecological indicator research has largely concentrated on indicators within a single resource type (i.e., wetlands, estuaries, lakes, streams, or forests), often at a single spatial scale and using a single sampling design. Research proposed for this solicitation should result in the development of indicators that (1) integrate between or among resource types, (2) incorporate multiple levels of biological organization (gene, organism, population, community, landscape), and (3) address multiple spatial scales (local, watershed, regional, national, global). Indicators may be individual field or remotely sensed measurements, indices, or model outputs. They may quantify biological condition relative to integrity and sustainability and/or quantify stressors to which the biota are exposed. Obviously, the resources, level of organization, spatial scale and type of indicator must be appropriate for the question (or environmental value) being addressed.

Different indicators employ a variety of measurements (e.g., organismal health, nutrient fluxes, population abundance, community diversity), each developed within the context of a particular discipline (pathology, limnology, ecology, etc.). Scientific advances in two disciplines, molecular genetics and landscape characterization, have provided incentive to further apply the tools of these disciplines to ecological indicator development. Thus, these areas are emphasized in this RFA as described in the Objectives and Priorities section. Interest in these disciplines is as follows:

Molecular genetics. Techniques in molecular biology have been developed that potentially allow measurement of genetic diversity, both as an interspecies and an intraspecies variable. The former may be applied as a community measure of biological diversity (an important characteristic of ecological integrity), whereas the latter may indicate the ability of a population to adapt to future environmental stresses. Thus, the identification and development of sensitive molecular and cellular indicators for monitoring and assessing changes in genetic diversity in response to environmental stressors is emphasized. Likely areas for research include, but are not limited to, multiple locus and single locus techniques to discriminate sources of genetic change in populations, development of indices of genetic instability, and evaluation of genetic heterozygosity of biota to determine vulnerability of extinctio