Response to Environmental Change
It is not clear how ecosystems will respond to environmental changes like pollution and climate change in the future. But if we can approximate these responses, it will enable us to protect our health and better manage our Nation's resources. Developing and providing these ecological forecasts is a high priority for NOAA.
Image: Flooding of farmlands along the San Joaquin River, San Joaquin Valley, Calif., Apr 2006. NOAA Photo Library.
A NOAA-Wide Effort
Ecological forecasting, spearheaded by the NOAA Ecological Forecasting Roadmap, requires cooperation across NOAA. NESDIS contributes primarily by providing data and expertise on data application and storage. NOAA Satellite imagery, for example, are used to detect Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), which can cause illness and even death in humans and animals.
Image: Satellite retrieval of chlorophyll concentration generated by NOAA CoastWatch.
A Variety of Forecasts
Ecological forecasts are topically diverse and span a wide range of both timeframe and geography. NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) scientists have developed forecasts varying from daily predictions of jellyfish in the Chesapeake Bay to expectations of malaria in Bangladesh plus seasonal projections of coral bleaching in global oceans (see above).
Image: Seasonal forecast of coral bleaching due to thermal stress for May–August 2014 generated April 2014 by NOAA Coral Reef Watch.
Tools in Decision Making
These ecological forecasts and warnings are used to make decisions. Short-term forecasts of HABs and pathogens, for example, provide local authorities with information they can use to decide whether to close beaches or shellfish beds. Long-term projections can help state officials evaluate alternative management scenarios.
Image: Aerial photograph of a Karenia brevis bloom off the Gulf Coast of Florida from the Gulf Coast Preservation Society.