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Ecosystems: Water Quality & Living Marine Resources

*Photo credit: T. Potts, NOAA Photo Library

Fish and Water quality, including beach advisories and harmful algae blooms


Fish, fishing, and fisheries are major components of the economy, heritage, and ecological systems that support and sustain the unique culture of the southeastern states. In August, 2009, SECOORA in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute held a workshop to assess the data and information needs of fisheries managers and researchers throughout the southeast region.  SECOORA is uniquely qualified to documenting the community requirements  and enable better integration between federal/state/local stakeholders.  We will work to improve access to and awareness of relevant observing assets including those at the surface, in-column, and sea-floor.

SECOORA will deliver the following products to support fisheries managers.

  • Geo-referenced regional level data, analyses and climatologies to support nowcasts and forecasts of events of social and ecosystem significance (e.g., harmful algae blooms, anoxia, etc.). 
  • Visualization and analyses tools for historical circulation and climate data, including maps of mean fields and seasonal variation of surface and subsurface temperature (which is a key parameter of interest to fisheries managers), salinity, circulation, and other physical variables from the estuaries and across the shelf to inform stock assessments and understanding of stock refurbishment processes. 
  • Evaluation of past HABs, anoxia/hypoxia or similar events. 
  • Linked biological and physical stock assessment models to support recovery of the snapper/grouper complex.

Project Spotlight: SECOORA Biological and Habitat GIS Web Site

The FL Fish & Wildlife Research Institute developed the SECOORA Biological and Habitat GIS site to provide biological data to researchers who want to link biological data with oceanographic data. The specific data sets that were requested to create this prototype were habitats and species distribution models. Currently, the site links the SECOORA asset inventory with individual asset inventory pages and is viewable in conjunction with biological data and specific events (such as red tide or hurricanes). The effort to find, develop, and display appropriate datasets is on-going. Biological data sets currently being examined for inclusion in the SECOORA portal include species distribution and recruitment data as well as water quality data. This requires reconciling differing scales and resolution, data processing and formatting.

Water Quality

Millions of people visit the beaches of NC, SC, GA, and FL every year.  These states monitor beach water quality to ensure public health is protected.  Yet, advisories are issued based on water samples that take 24 hours to process.  Thus today’s advisory is based on yesterday’s water quality.   

SECOORA will work with state agencies to improve beach advisories through the incorporation of observing data by providing:

  • Standardized and interoperable data management interface to simplify and organize the real-time and historical data necessary to develop statistical models to predict when beach or shellfish advisories should be issued.
  • Support to, and collaboration with, the appropriate agency in each state to help develop preemptive models for beach advisories for priority  beach communities that can serve as pilot projects. 
  • A training workshop for water quality managers to enable expansion of the results of the pilot projects to beach communities throughout the southeast, and potentially to other regions as well.

Project Spotlight: Enterococcus Predictive Models

The South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (SCDHEC) routinely  samples water quality at ocean beaches and uses the results to inform the public of potential health risks.  The primary contaminant used for issuing beach swimming advisories is  Enterococcus bacteria.  High levels of this indicate a greater chance of human pathogens being present.  But, the data used to make determinations to issue swimming advisories is typically at least 24 hours old.  This can lead to inaccurate decision making — posting advisories when the water is safe, and failing to issue advisories when water quality is poor, therefore potentially putting the public at risk.  The University of South Carolina (USC) has recently collaborated with SCDHEC, NOAA, Raytheon, Inc. and the University of Maryland to implement decision support models to improve beach advisory accuracy.  Using a variety of modeling techniques and ocean observing variables (wind, weather, current, salinity, etc.) , the research team created one of the first marine/Enterococcus predictive models.  These models are now being used in support of issuing beach swimming advisories, resulting in improved public health protection.

Ocean Color Products

Satellite remote sensing products have provided an integrated and also unique component of SECOORA RCOOS because of their synoptic, repeated, and frequent coverage. One example is how these products were used in response to theDeepwater Horizonoilspill event. SECOORA funded University of South Florida College of Marine Science Optical Oceanography lab to develop novel ocean color products. These products address SECOORA's thematic area “Ecosystems,Living Marine Resources and Water Quality" and developed with the engagement of stake holders such as NOAA AOML Coral Health and Monitoring programthrough ICON (Integrated Coral Observing Network) and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  Products include: a chlor_a (Chlorophyll a) image, an ergb (Enhanced RGB) image, a flh (Fluorescence Line Height) image, and a sst (Sea Surface Temperature) image. During night passes, two products are produced: a sst (Sea Surface Temperature) image and sst 4 (Sea Surface Temperature) image.

SECOORA Ocean Color Products