Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
july 2013

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USGS develops improved technique for coral reef monitoring

Coral reefs are being degraded on a global scale, and a better understanding of the factors that affect coral growth could tell us why. To this end, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has pioneered a new weight-based method that allows for more accurate and precise measurements of coral growth.

At reefs along the Florida Keys, USGS scientists transplanted corals to fixed surfaces from which they could periodically be detached and weighed. Prior studies have relied on linear measurements of coral growth, which are inherently less reliable, since corals do not grow uniformly in all directions.

Research has suggested that effects from global climate change and changes in land use, including ocean acidification, increasing ocean temperatures, and water quality degradation, are implicated in coral population decline. However, linking these factors to coral decline in particular reef environments remains a challenge. By providing a practical and precise method of monitoring coral growth, this work by the USGS should enable improved understanding of the influences on coral reef health in the wild.

NAS report on Ocean Acidification Strategic Plan

The National Academies of Sciences released a report on the “Review of the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Plan.” Developed as a guide for federal research, the strategic plan assesses the impacts of ocean acidification and help policymakers develop strategies for adaptation and mitigation. The report discusses the potential consequences of increasing ocean acidity, and reviews the Strategic Plan for Federal Research and Monitoring of Ocean Acidification prepared by the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification, which was created as part of Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act (FOARAM) in 2009.  

Streamer - A new online tool to visualize and understand water flow across America

Streamer is a new interactive, online map service from the United States Geological Survey and the National Atlas of the United States that allows the user to navigate America’s major rivers and streams. Using digital hydrographic data at one million-scale (1 inch = 15.8 miles), Streamer allows the user to trace any stream or river upstream and downstream from any point along its course. It allows for the creation of concise or detailed reports of the upstream and downstream traces of any particular stream or river, making it a useful tool for community planners and policy makers. With Streamer, any policy or planning decision can now more easily contain information on upstream or downstream impacts.

Streamer also allows the user to locate areas of interest by entering latitude and longitude coordinates, specifying stream or place names, or entering a USGS stream flow gauge identification number. The user can also print out maps of upstream and downstream traces, identify streams and water bodies by clicking on them, learn about current or historic streamflow at thousands of locations, and collect other useful information.

Interactive maps and further information can be found on the official website.