2003 Progress Report: Development, Testing, and Application of Ecological and Socioeconomic Indicators for Integrated Assessment of Aquatic Ecosystems of the Atlantic Slope in the Mid-Atlantic States

EPA Grant Number: R828684
Center: EAGLES - Atlantic Slope Consortium
Center Director: Brooks, Robert P.
Title: Development, Testing, and Application of Ecological and Socioeconomic Indicators for Integrated Assessment of Aquatic Ecosystems of the Atlantic Slope in the Mid-Atlantic States
Investigators: Brooks, Robert P. , Rheinhardt, Rick D. , Weller, Donald E. , O'Connor, Robert E. , Jordan, Thomas E. , Whigham, Dennis F. , Wardrop, Denice Heller , Gallegos, Charles L. , McElfish, James M. , Varnell, Lyle M. , Brinson, Mark M. , Marra, Peter P. , Shortle, James S. , Hines, Anson , Hershner, Carl , Nizeyimana, Egide , Thornton, Kent , Havens, Kirk
Current Investigators: Brooks, Robert P. , Bishop, Joseph A. , Wardrop, Denice Heller , Armstrong, Brian K. , Easterling, Mary M. , Hite, Jeremy T. , Rubbo, Jennifer , Thornton, Kent
Institution: Pennsylvania State University , East Carolina University , Atlantic Slope Consortium , Virginia Institute of Marine Science , Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Current Institution: Pennsylvania State University , FTN Associates, Ltd
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: March 1, 2001 through February 1, 2005 (Extended to February 28, 2006)
Project Period Covered by this Report: March 1, 2003 through February 1, 2004
Project Amount: $6,000,000
RFA: Environmental Indicators in the Estuarine Environment Research Program (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Water , Aquatic Ecosystems

Objective:

The overall objective of the Atlantic Slope Consortium (ASC) research project is to develop and test a set of indicators in freshwater and coastal systems that are ecologically appropriate, economically reasonable, and relevant to society. Specific objectives, as presented in the original proposed scope of work, are to: (1) develop and test ecological and socioeconomic indicators of aquatic resource condition, construct models that use environmental, geographic, and stressor data to predict indicator responses, and use models to link upstream watersheds and downstream estuaries; (2) develop large scale measures for characterizing landscape attributes and land-use patterns to serve as predictors of a range of environmental conditions; and (3) deliver a nested suite of indicators to managers, where the implications of aggregating models at various scales are considered and for which reliability is known.

These objectives were restated in the project vision statement, developed collaboratively by the project team, as described below.

The ASC uses a universe of watersheds, covering a range of social choices (as reflected in differing land use/land cover), and asks two questions:

1. How “good” can the environment be, given those social choices?

2. What is the intellectual model of condition within those choices, that is, what are the causes of condition and what are the steps for improvement?

Following development and articulation of the vision statement, many of the project tasks were oriented to specific portions of this statement. This ensures that a common vision is pursued consistently throughout the project.

Progress Summary:

Year 3 of the ASC project included collection and analysis of field data, exploration of landscape-level indicators, socioeconomic surveys and modeling, and greater emphasis on integrating the various components of the project. A summary of these activities is given below. Additional details can be found in the reports for the individual subprojects.

Estuarine Data Collection and Analysis

In general, field data collection initiated in prior years continued in Year 3. Sampling included measurements of biota (e.g., estuarine fauna, birds, wetland vegetation, and stream macroinvertebrates) as well as abiotic condition (e.g., water quality, sediment, in-stream habitat). Shoreline surveys and measurement of optical properties also were undertaken. Data analysis has been ongoing and indicators are in various stages of development.

Estuarine Faunal Indicators. Analyses of estuarine faunal data, and associated physical and chemical habitat, have been focused on exploring the relationships among local, watershed, and regional-scale indicators, as well as linkages between abiotic and biotic indicators. For example, we identified important abiotic predictors of the distribution of two key indicators of estuarine health, blue crabs and bivalves. These abiotic predictors are easily measured and thus may serve as cost-effective indicators for targeting features for conservation or identifying areas that are likely to be degraded. In a separate but related effort, a Fish Community Index (FCI) was developed for nearshore fish based on 2002 data; this index is now being used to look for correlations with easily observed watershed and shoreline conditions.

Avian Indicators. This project component aims to develop indicators of watershed condition using individual-, population-, and community-level attributes of wetland, riparian, and water bird assemblages. Sampling riparian bird communities was a new addition in 2003; this will help link watershed processes to estuarine condition. An Index of Marsh Bird Community Integrity(IMBCI) has been developed, and a Water Bird Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) is under development. The influence of land use on breeding Red-winged Blackbirds and other marsh nesting passerines is also being studied.

Wetland Vegetation Indicators. Data collected on macrophyte species composition in brackish wetlands as part of the bird surveys are being used to develop wetland vegetation indicators, with particular emphasis on the extent of Phragmites australis invasion. To help identify potential causes of this species’ expansion, particularly linkages to nutrient enrichment, Phragmites leaf samples are being analyzed for nutrient and metals content.

Stream Indicators. Continued sampling of benthic macroinvertebrates and related physical habitat parameters took place in the freshwater portion of estuarine segments, in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Maryland Biological Stream Survey (MBSS). These data, combined with existing data, are being used to calculate the coastal plain benthic IBI. An investigation of spatial considerations for linking watershed landcover to various stream indicators in Coastal Plain streams, based on existing MBSS data, has recently been completed.

Optical Indicators. An optically based indicator of habitat suitability for submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) was derived and applied to mesohaline subestuaries of Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia) with differing land uses, and in the North River, NC. The indicator utilizes concentrations of optically active water quality parameters to determine whether sufficient light penetrates the water column for growth of SAV. In addition, c ollaborative studies were concluded with investigators in the Atlantic Coast Environmental Indicators Consortium (ACE-INC) EaGLes in Morehead City, NC. Comparisons have been made between optical properties at the more energetic sites studied by ACE-INC and the more protected sites being studied by the ASC.

Watershed Data Collection and Analysis

Physical Habitat/Landscape Indicators. A sampling protocol for Stream, Wetland, and Riparian (SWR) areas, developed collaboratively by the ASC team in Year 2 of the project, was applied at 20 points in each of 24 watersheds in the study region. These data have been entered into a MS Access database, and analysis is currently underway. To allow for cross-comparisons between the SWR data and landscape-level metrics, information was generated on landcover characteristics in a 1-km circle surrounding each SWR point, and for each HUC-14 watershed, from the National Land Cover Data (NLCD). Existing biological datasets, including benthic macroinvertebrate data from the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program and the MBSS, will be used to validate assessments of aquatic ecosystem health generated by physical habitat metrics (at the site level) and by landscape metrics (in 1-km circles and at the watershed scale).

In addition, as an outgrowth of developing the SWR protocol, a preliminary assessment procedure was developed for headwater riparian systems in North Carolina. This assessment protocol is being revised to reflect reference conditions in North Carolina watersheds and to meet specific needs of the North Carolina Wetland Restoration Program.

Landscape Indicators. An existing nutrient discharge model and GIS are being used to explore the efficacy of geographic data (beyond physiographic province and land use/land cover) in predicting nutrient discharges. Factors being explored include the spatial arrangement of landscape features, particularly source areas and riparian forests; the effects of improved hydrologic characterization; and the influence of wetlands. Attention has also been focused on identifying the ways that choice of geographic data sources and their resolution and choice of specific metrics effect predictions of nutrient discharge. This modeling will allow linkages between geographic data and water chemistry data and, ultimately, biological condition.

Human Dimensions Working Group

The Human Dimensions Working group developed two innovative approaches for ranking the relative efficiency of communities in the region in producing a high quality of life and environment. One is based on data envelopment analysis and uses minimal value judgments. The second imposes stronger value judgments derived from observed human residential (i.e., human habitat) choices. Secondary data was used for proof-of-concept; the group is currently moving toward an application to communities in ASC watersheds.

The working group also: (1) produced frameworks for combining economic and environmental water quality policy analysis in the specific context of designing pollution trading programs for point and nonpoint sources of water pollution and managing invasive species that threaten aquatic resources; (2) developed theory to guide the interpretation of economic and environmental data for sustainability analysis; (3) explored the use of stochastic frontier analysis for assessing the efficiency of land use change; and (4) examined institutional and legal obstacles to effective integration of ecological indicators into decision-making .

Finally, the working group is exploring methods and results to estimate societal value of various types of economic and environmental information for water quality management, and methods for data collection. Methods and results are being developed on the value of information for managing nitrogen loads in the Susquehanna River Basin of Pennsylvania. Team members continue to refine the methods and apply them to ASC watersheds.

Development of ASC “Messages”

The ASC management team met during the summer of 2003 to set strategies for pulling together the various components of ASC research. Out of this meeting came four “messages” that the group saw emerging from the research to date. These messages will serve as organizing themes for the final year and a half of the project. These messages are:

1. A taxonomic key of indicators, using land use categories as surrogates for social choices, can be used to: (a) assess condition, (b) diagnose condition, (c) measure management performance, and (d) communicate ecological condition to the public and stakeholders. This taxonomic key indicates there are both multiple ecological states and multiple reference conditions that satisfy various social choice categories.

2. Correspondence or linkage has been established among coastal watershed indicators and near-field estuarine indicators for various social choice categories. This correspondence provides insight into the effects of different watershed management practices on estuarine ecosystems.

3. Correspondence or linkage has been established among upstream watershed indicators and associated stream and downstream aquatic ecosystem indicators for various social choice categories. In addition, the scaling relationships have been established for aggregating watershed indicators from 14 => 11 => 8 digit HUCs to downstream water quality indicators.

4. Social well-being indicators can be empirically linked with environmental quality indicators, for various social choice categories. The consequences of social choices on both social well-being and the environment can be assessed.

These messages correspond roughly to the original sub-proposal and working group structure of the ASC. The main difference is that Message 1 integrates across components of the project, and Message 2 relates to both the estuarine and optical indicators sub-proposals. These messages will form the core of the final ASC report.

Future Activities:

The final year of the project will be devoted to analyzing data collected in prior years, interpreting results, and pulling together the pieces of the project into an integrated whole. There will be an increased focus on manuscript preparation and submittal, as well as final report preparation.


Journal Articles: 36 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other center views: All 158 publications 43 publications in selected types All 36 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Baker ME, Weller DE, Jordan TE. Improved methods for quantifying potential nutrient interception by riparian buffers. Landscape Ecology 2006;21(8):1327-1345.
abstract available  
R828684 (Final)
R831369 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Journal Article Baker ME, Weller DE, Jordan TE. Comparison of automated watershed delineations: effects on land cover areas, percentages, and relationships to nutrient discharge. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 2006;72(2):159-168. R828684C003 (Final)
    not available
    Journal Article Baker ME, Weller DE, Jordan TE. Effects of stream map resolution on measures of riparian buffer distribution and nutrient retention potential. Landscape Ecology 2007;22(7):973-992.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
    R831369 (2006)
    R831369 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer Link Abstract
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  • Journal Article Bilkovic DM, Roggero M, Hershner CH, Havens KH. Influence of land use on macrobenthic communities in nearshore estuarine habitats. Estuaries and Coasts 2006;29(6):1185-1195.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Journal Article Borisova T, Shortle JS, Horan RD, Abler DG. The value of information for water quality protection. Water Resources Research 2005;41(6):W06004.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
    R828684C004 (2003)
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    R828684C004 (Final)
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  • Abstract: Wiley Online
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  • Journal Article Brooks R, McKenney-Easterling M, Brinson M, Rheinhardt R, Havens K, O'Brien D, Bishop J, Rubbo J, Armstrong B, Hite J. A Stream-Wetland-Riparian (SWR) index for assessing condition of aquatic ecosystems in small watersheds along the Atlantic slope of the eastern U.S. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 2009;150(1-4):101-117.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Journal Article DeLuca WV, Studds CE, Rockwood LL, Marra PP. Influence of land use on the integrity of marsh bird communities of Chesapeake Bay, USA. Wetlands 2004;24(4):837-847. R828684C001 (2004)
    R828684C001 (Final)
    not available
    Journal Article DeLuca WV, Studds CE, King RS, Marra PP. Coastal urbanization and the integrity of estuarine waterbird communities: threshold responses and the importance of scale. Biological Conservation 2008;141(11):2669-2678.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (Final)
  • Full-text: Science DIrect Full-text
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  • Abstract: Science DIrect Abstract
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  • Other: Science DIrect Full-text pdf
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  • Journal Article Gallegos CL, Biber PD. Diagnostic tool help set water quality targets for restoring submerged aquatic vegetation in Chesapeake Bay. Ecological Restoration 2004;22(4):1441-1451 R828684C002 (2004)
    R828677C004 (2004)
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    Journal Article Gallegos CL, Jordan TE, Hines AH, Weller DE. Temporal variability of optical properties in a shallow, eutrophic estuary: seasonal and interannual variability. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 2005;64(2-3):156-170.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (Final)
    R828684C002 (2003)
  • Full-text: Science Direct - Full Text HTML
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  • Abstract: Science Direct - Abstract
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  • Other: Science Direct - Full Text PDF
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  • Journal Article Goetz S, Fiske G. Linking the diversity and abundance of stream biota to landscapes in the mid-Atlantic USA. Remote Sensing of Environment 2008;112(11):4075-4085.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (Final)
    R831369 (Final)
  • Full-text: Science Direct Full-text
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  • Abstract: Science Direct Abstract
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  • Other: Science Direct Full-text pdf
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  • Journal Article Goetz SJ. Remote sensing of riparian buffers: past progress and future prospects. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 2006;42(1):133-143.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (Final)
    R831369 (2006)
    R831369 (Final)
  • Abstract: Wiley
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  • Other: American Water Resources Association PDF
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  • Journal Article Hershner C, Havens K, Bilkovic DM, Wardrop D. Assessment of Chesapeake Bay program selection and use of indicators. EcoHealth 2007;4(2):187-193.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer
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  • Journal Article Horan RD, Shortle JS, Abler DG. The coordination and design of point-nonpoint trading programs and agri-environmental policies. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 2004;33(1):61-78.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (Final)
    R828684C004 (2003)
  • Abstract: AgEcon Abstract
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  • Other: AgEcon Full-text pdf
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  • Journal Article Horan RD, Shortle JS. When two wrongs make a right: second-best point-nonpoint trading ratios. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 2005;87(2):340-352.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
    R828684C004 (2003)
  • Abstract: Wiley InterScience Abstract
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  • Journal Article Hychka KC, Wardrop DH, Brooks RP. Enhancing a landscape assessment with intensive data: a case study in the Upper Juniata watershed. Wetlands 2007;27(3):446-461.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
  • Abstract: SpringerLink
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  • Journal Article King RS, Richardson CJ. Integrating bioassessment and ecological risk assessment: an approach to developing numerical water-quality criteria. Environmental Management 2003;31(6):795-809.
    full text available
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  • Full-text: State of Florida PDF
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  • Journal Article King RS, Beaman JR, Whigham DF, Hines AH, et al. Watershed land use is strongly linked to PCBs in white perch in Chesapeake Bay subestuaries. Environmental Science & Technology 2004;38(24):6546-6552. R828684C001 (2004)
    R828684C001 (Final)
  • Full-text: ACS Full Text
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  • Journal Article King RS, Baker ME, Whigham DF, Weller DE, Jordan TE, Kazyak PF, Hurd MK. Spatial considerations for linking watershed land cover to ecological indicators in streams. Ecological Applications 2005;15(1):137-153.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (2002)
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    R828684C003 (2003)
  • Full-text: Baylor University PDF
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  • Abstract: ESA
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  • Journal Article King RS, Hines AH, Craige FD, Grap S. Regional, watershed, and local correlates of blue crab and bivalve abundances in subestuaries of Chesapeake Bay, USA. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 2005;319(1-2):101-116. R828684 (Final)
    R828684C001 (2003)
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    Journal Article King RS, Deluca WV, Whigham DF, Marra PP. Threshold effects of coastal urbanization on Phragmites australis (common reed) abundance and foliar nitrogen in Chesapeake Bay. Estuaries and Coasts 2007;30(3):469-481.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Journal Article Marshall E, Shortle J. Using DEA and VEA to evaluate quality of life in the mid-Atlantic states. Agriculture and Resource Economics Review 2005;34(2):185-203. R828684C004 (Final)
    not available
    Journal Article McElfish Jr. JM, Varnell LM. Designing environmental indicator systems for public decisions. Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 2006;31(1):45-86.
    abstract available  
    R828684C004 (2004)
    R828684C004 (Final)
  • Abstract: Hein Online
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  • Journal Article Myers WL, McKenney-Easterling M, Hychka K, Griscom B, Bishop JA, Bayard A, Rocco GL, Brooks RP, Constantz G, Patil GP, Taillie C. Contextual clustering for configuring collaborative conservation of watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 2006;13(4):391-407.
    abstract available  
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  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Journal Article Myers WL, Kurihara K, Patil GP, Vraney R. Finding upper-level sets in cellular surface data using echelons and saTScan. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 2006;13(4):379-390.
    abstract available  
    R828684 (Final)
  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Journal Article Niemi G, Wardrop D, Brooks R, Anderson S, Brady V, Paerl H , Rakocinski C, Brouwer M, Levinson B, McDonald M. Rationale for a new generation of indicators for coastal waters. Environmental Health Perspectives 2004;112(9):979-986.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (Final)
    R828675 (2004)
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    R828677C001 (Final)
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  • Full-text from PubMed
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  • Associated PubMed link
  • Full-text: EHP - Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: EHP
  • Other: EHP - Full Text PDF
  • Journal Article Patil GP, Brooks RP, Myers WL, Rapport DJ, Taillie C. Ecosystem health and its measurement at landscape scale: toward the next generation of quantitative assessments. Ecosystem Health 2001;7(4):307-316.
    abstract available   full text available
    R828684 (2002)
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  • Abstract: Wiley InterScience Abstract
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  • Other: Ecosystem Health Full-text pdf
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  • Journal Article Patil GP, Bishop JA, Myers WL, Taillie C, Vraney R, Wardrop D. Detection and delineation of critical areas using echelons and spatial scan statistics with synoptic cellular data. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 2004;11(2):139-164.
    abstract available  
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  • Full-text: IngentaConnect
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  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Other: Prepublication Paper PDF
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  • Journal Article Patil GP, Taillie C. Multiple indicators, partially ordered sets, and linear extensions:multi-criterion ranking and prioritization. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 2004;11(2):199-228.
    abstract available   full text available
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  • Abstract: Springer Abstract
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  • Other: Environmental and Ecological Statistics pdf
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  • Journal Article Patil GP, Taillie C. Upper level set scan statistic for detecting arbitrarily shaped hotspots. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 2004;11(2):183-197.
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  • Other: Environmental and Ecological Statistics
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  • Journal Article Ranjan R, Marshall L, Shortle J. Optimal renewable resource management in the presence of endogenous risk of invasion. Environmental and Resource Economics 2008;89(4):273-283.
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    R828684C004 (2003)
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  • Abstract: Science Direct - Abstract
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  • Journal Article Rheinhardt RD, Brinson MM, Christian RR, Miller KH, Meyer GF. A reference-based framework for evaluating the ecological condition of stream networks in small watersheds. Wetlands 2007;27(3):524-542.
    abstract available  
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  • Abstract: Bioone Abstract
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  • Journal Article Rheinhardt RD, McKenney-Easterling M, Brinson MM, Masina-Rubbo J, Brooks RP, Whigham DF, O'Brien D, Hite JT, Armstrong BK. Canopy composition and forest structure provide restoration targets for low-order riparian ecosystems. Restoration Ecology 2009;17(1):51-59.
    abstract available  
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  • Abstract: Ingenta Connect
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  • Journal Article Rheinhardt R, Brinson M, Brooks R, McKenney-Easterling M, Rubbo JM, Hite J, Armstrong B. Development of a reference-based method for identifying and scoring indicators of condition for coastal plain riparian reaches. Ecological Indicators 2007;7(2):339-361.
    abstract available   full text available
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  • Full-text: Science Direct Full-text
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  • Abstract: Science Direct Abstract
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  • Journal Article Theobald DM, Goetz SJ, Norman JB, Jantz P. Watersheds at risk to increased impervious surface cover in the conterminous United States. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering 2009;14(4):362-368.
    abstract available   full text available
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  • Abstract: AIP Abstract
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  • Journal Article Wardrop DH, Bishop JA, Easterling M, Hychka K, Myers W, Patil GP, Taillie C. Use of landscape and land use parameters for classification and characterization of watersheds in the mid-Atlantic across five physiographic provinces. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 2005;12(2):209-223.
    abstract available  
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    R828684C003 (2003)
    R828684C003 (2004)
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  • Supplemental Keywords:

    integrated assessment, aquatic ecosystem, wetland, stream, estuary, biological integrity, landscape ecology, scaling, health effects, ecological effect, risk assessment, socioeconomic, decision-making, remote sensing, Mid-Atlantic, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, EMAP, aquatic biota, aquatic ecosystem, indicators, bioindicator, biomonitoring, coastal ecosystem, contaminated sediment, degradation, ecological assessment, ecological exposure, ecosystem assessment, ecosystem indicators, ecosystem stress, environmental stress, estuarine ecosystems, integrated assessment, integrative indicators, land use, nutrient stress, remote sensing,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Waste, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Nutrients, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Wastewater, Contaminated Sediments, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Economics, Mid-Atlantic, Ecology and Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Biology, Ecological Indicators, remote sensing, coastal ecosystem, aquatic ecosystem, bioindicator, degradation, ecological exposure, ecosystem assessment, watersheds, aquatic biota , contaminated sediment, socioeconomics, biomonitoring, ecological assessment, estuarine ecosystems, integrated assessment, nutrient stress, ecosystem indicators, Atlantic Slope Consortium, aquatic ecosystems, environmental stress, integrative indicators, water quality, bioindicators, ecosystem stress

    Relevant Websites:

    http://www.asc.psu.edu Exit
    https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.files/fileID/7680 (PDF) (8 pp., 3.4MB) about PDF)

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final Report
  • Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R828684C001 Integrated Assessment of Estuarine Ecosystems
    R828684C002 Development of an Optical Indicator of Habitat Suitability for Submersed Aquatic Vegetation
    R828684C003 Integrated Assessment of Watersheds
    R828684C004 Socioeconomic and Institutional Research