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


Effects Of Climate Change On Ecosystem Services Provided By Coral Reefs And Tidal Marshes

Sorting Code Number: 2004-STAR-J1
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66:509

Technical Contact: Bernice Smith, 541-754-4817, email: smith.bernicel@epa.gov
Eligibility Contact: Tom Barnwell, 202-343-9862, email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov

Opening Date: February 6, 2004
Closing Date: May 12, 2004

Summary of Program Requirements
Specific Areas of Interest
Special Requirements
Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
Sorting Code


Synopsis of Program:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications for projects that develop quantitative relationships among tidal marsh and coral reef processes and their associated ecosystem services. EPA is particularly interested in research that will: (1) characterize the relationships between the ecosystem processes associated with coral reef or marsh systems and the resultant ecosystem services they provide; (2) characterize the effects of climate change stressors on these ecosystem processes; and (3) provide a spatially and temporally explicit framework for assessing how climate change stressors alter the ecosystem services provided by these reef and marsh systems. This framework may include methods for multi-attribute comparisons of the effects of different stressor scenarios on ecosystem services.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately 6 awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $4.5 million total costs
Potential Funding per Grant: Up to $250,000/year with a duration of 2 or 3 years and no more than a total of $750,000, including direct and indirect costs. Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

Eligibility Information:
Institutions of higher education and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and Tribal, state and local governments are eligible to apply. See full announcement for more details.

Contact Persons:
Technical Contact: Bernice Smith, 541-754-4817, email: smith.bernicel@epa.gov
Eligibility Contact: Tom Barnwell, 202-343-9862, email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), in cooperation with the EPA Global Change Research Program, announces an extramural funding competition supporting research to assess the potential consequences of climate change on coral reefs and tidal marshes, which include climate variability, changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, and sea level rise. These and other co-occurring stressors have both direct and indirect effects on ecosystem structure and function with consequent effects on the provision of ecosystem services. Ecosystem structure is a complex system of biotic and abiotic components that are linked together and thus interact (Moberg and Folke, 1999). Ecosystem function is the maintenance of natural processes (i.e., energy flow, nutrient cycling, etc.) and properties that facilitate the production of ecosystem services (de Groot et al., 2002). Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits that sustain and fulfill all life on earth (Daily, 1997; de Groot, 2002). Few studies have translated changes in ecological components and processes into quantitative estimates of effects on ecosystem services.

Coral reefs are shallow marine habitats defined by a physical structure comprised of stony corals and other species that secrete skeletons of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate accumulates over time to support a diverse array of other organisms that live on or in the resulting structure (e.g. Spalding et al., 2001). Different types of coral reefs include fringing reefs, barrier reefs, atolls and platform reefs.

Coral reefs provide a variety of important services including: maintenance of biodiversity, shoreline protection, tourism, fisheries, trade, and aesthetic and cultural value. Climate related stressors affecting coral reefs include: temperature, solar radiation, changes in CO2, changes in the frequency and severity of storms, sea level rise, changes in water quality, and salinity fluctuations.

Tidal marshes are wetlands that are frequently or continually inundated with water, characterized by emergent soft-stemmed vegetation adapted to saturated soil conditions, and influenced by the motion of the tides. Tidal marshes may be freshwater, brackish or saline. Tidal marshes provide many ecosystem services. They buffer stormy seas, slow shoreline erosion, absorb excess nutrients before they reach oceans and estuaries, and provide vital food and habitat for aquatic biota. Climate related stressors affecting tidal marshes include: climate variability, changes in precipitation and temperature patterns, changes in CO2 concentrations, and sea level rise.

The effects of climate change and other stressors on coral reef and tidal marsh structure and function will have consequences for the flow of ecosystem services provided by these systems. The goal of the research to be conducted is to elucidate the interactions among climate change stressors and their relative effects on multiple ecosystem services (see Figure 1). The results of this research will establish the scientific basis for assessing the potential ecological and social consequences of climate change at various spatial scales. Moreover, resource managers and decision makers will have the opportunity to anticipate changes in ecosystem services and adapt their management practices for long-term ecological sustainability.


EPA’s Global Change Research Program is assessing the potential consequences of global change on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and social well-being in the United States. This entails: (1) improving the scientific capabilities and basis for projecting and evaluating effects of and vulnerabilities to global change in the context of other stressors and human dimensions (as humans are catalysts of and respond to global change); (2) conducting assessments of the ecological, human health, and socioeconomic risks and opportunities presented by global changes; and (3) assessing adaptation options to improve society’s ability to effectively respond to the risks and opportunities presented by global changes as they emerge.

The STAR global grants program supports the global change research program by focusing on two principal areas: 1) the science to support assessments of consequences; and 2) human dimensions research. This RFA focuses on assessment of consequences. Extramural grants help EPA’s Global Change Research Program attain its long-term objectives as described in its Strategic Plan and encourage scientific work supporting global change assessments. This RFA is co-sponsored by the STAR Ecological Research Program.

This RFA represents the third step in the EPA Global Change Program, a multi-year plan to build the capacity to assess and respond to global change impacts on aquatic ecosystems. The first RFA sought proposals to foster the development of models that capture the interaction of human behavior with natural (nonhuman) responses to climate change. The second RFA solicited proposals to address the consequences and integrative effects of global change on aquatic ecosystems and water quality.


This research is intended to provide a scientific framework for informing societal decisions regarding the effects of climate stressors on ecological services. Examples of a framework might include: (1) establishing spatially and temporally explicit projections of changes in ecological services due to climate stressors; (2) predicting the effects of alternative management scenarios on ecosystem services; and (3) developing methods to describe relationships between ecosystem services, climate stressors and management responses. Such a framework would likely include innovative methods such as those derived from Geographic Information Systems (GIS), multi-objective attribute analysis, and systems analysis, as well as means to estimate errors inherent in projections.

The aquatic ecosystems that could be addressed under this RFA are coral reefs found in tropical waters (excluding deep/cold water reef systems) and tidal marshes that are found along protected coastlines in middle and high latitudes. Proposals may include consideration of coral reefs and tidal marshes in other countries, but proposals must demonstrate the applicability of proposed research to the United States and its territories.

For coral reefs or tidal marshes, proposals must describe how the relationships among ecological processes and their associated services will be quantified. Changes in ecological processes due to climate change stressors can be estimated based on existing data and literature where possible or original research where necessary. Successful proposals should address the following research questions for coral reefs or tidal marshes:

  • What ecosystem services (provided by coral reefs and tidal marshes) are to be investigated? The selection of ecosystem services must be justified in terms of ecological and societal importance and vulnerability to climate change stressors.
  • What are the critical ecological components and processes that support these services?
  • What are the key parameters that capture changes in those components and processes?
  • What are the implications of changes in the coral reef and tidal marsh system for provision of ecosystem services?

Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of linkages, from climate change stressors to impacts on ecological components and processes, and ecosystem services.

Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of linkages, from climate change stressors to impacts on ecological components and processes, and ecosystem services. Climate change stressors (Box A) have impacts on key ecological components (Box B) and ecological processes (Box C) that provide ecosystem services (Box D). Proposed work should emphasize research in the dashed boxes using existing data and information for characterizing the solid boxes.

A framework for a successful proposal will:

  1. Articulate the research questions for the proposed work.
  2. Describe the hypotheses to be tested. These should relate to the key ecological components and processes and their relationships to the flow of ecosystem services and consideration of subsystem processes at various spatial and temporal scales, where applicable.
  3. Describe the experimental design proposed for the research by:
    • Justifying the selection of ecologically and socially important ecosystem services.
    • Identifying ecosystem components and processes essential to the provision of these services.
    • Defining parameters for provision of services (identify suites of endpoints that provide a comparable basis for linking changes in key ecological components and processes to service).
    • Describing the applicability of and use of existing data sets, approaches and measurements to estimate the range of possible changes in parameters due to climate change. (Parameters should be described at appropriate spatial scales and sufficient resolution to quantify effects of both incremental and major ecosystem structure changes.).
  4. Provide a rationale for the selection of existing techniques or novel approaches to translate parameter changes into estimated changes in ecosystem service flows.
  5. Describe the nature of the expected results.


Daily, G. 1997. Ecosystem Services: Benefits Supplied to Human Societies By Natural Ecosystems. Issues in Ecology, 2 pp. 1 -16.

de Groot R., M.A. Wilson, and R.M.J. Boumans. 2002. A typology for classification, description and valuation for ecosystem functions, goods and services, Ecological Economics, 41 pp. 393-408.

Moberg, F. and C. Folke. 1999. Ecological Goods and Services of Coral Reef Ecosystems, Ecological Economics, 29 pp. 215-233.

Spalding, M.D., Ravilious, C. and E.P. Green. 2001. World atlas of coral reefs. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Wetlands”


We recognize this research will require collaboration among researchers representing a variety of disciplines, possibly including hydrologists, ecologists, spatial analysts and social scientists, and encourage this collaboration.

Applicants are advised to use climate data from the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) (available at http://ipcc-ddc.cru.uea.ac.uk) or sensitivity analyses consistent with estimates of projected climate changes found in recently published literature. Applicants should also refer to Table 1 of de Groot et al. (2002) for the classification of ecosystem functions and services.

See the following citation for estimates of sea level rise:

Titus, James G. and Vijay K. Narayanan. 1995. The Probability of Sea Level Rise. USEPA 230-R-95-008. 186pp.


It is anticipated that a total of approximately $4.5 million will be awarded depending on the availability of funds. Budgets of up to $250,000 per year for up to 3 years ($750,000 total, including direct and indirect costs) will be considered.
Six (6) awards are expected. Requests with EPA funding amount in excess of $750,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. Assume a starting date of no earlier than October 2004 for budgeting purposes.


Institutions of higher education and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and Tribal, state and local governments are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program.

National laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, “FFRDCs”) may not apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator. The principal investigator's institution, organization, or governance may provide funds through its grant from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal agencies may not apply. Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant, and may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program. However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant. EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. This interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is “incidental” does not involve resource commitments.

The principal investigator’s institution may enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.
Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Tom Barnwell in NCER, phone 202-343-9862, email: barnwell.thomas.epa.gov


Institutional cost sharing is not required.


Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
The Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application including the necessary forms will be found on the NCER web site.

Sorting Code

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is 2004-STAR-J1.


Applications must be received by the application receipt date listed in this announcement. If an application is received after that date, it will be returned to the applicant without review.

The following is the schedule for this RFA. It should be noted that this schedule might be changed without notification due to factors that were not anticipated at the time of announcement.

Application Receipt Date: May 12, 2004
Earliest Anticipated Start Date: October 2004

The application review process will be found in the Standard Instructions. Consideration of an application’s merit is based on the following criteria: (1) the originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the research methods proposed and the quality assurance statement; (2) the qualifications of the principal investigator(s) and other key personnel; (3) the responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the topic area; (4) the availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the project; and, (5) although budget information does not reflect on the application’s scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget.


Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA official indicated below. Email inquiries are preferred.

Technical Contact: Bernice Smith, 541-754-4817, email: smith.bernicel@epa.gov
Eligibility Contact: Tom Barnwell, 202-343-9862, email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov


This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 66.509. The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the Clean Air Act, Section 103, as amended, Public Law 95-95, 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq. and the Clean Water Act, Section 104, as amended, Public Law 95-217, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.