Center for Human Health Risk at Hollings Marine Laboratory actively engages with
Hollings Marine Laboratory partners as well as other
NOAA and academic researchers to develop ecological forecasts that
are useful for coastal decision makers. Improved planning and decision-making in
our coastal environments is critical for protecting and restoring critical ecosystem
services as well as protecting the health and well-being of coastal communities.
Ecological forecasts can be defined as “…the process of predicting the state of
ecosystems, ecosystem services, and natural capital, with fully specified uncertainties,
and is contingent on explicit scenarios for climate, land use, human population,
technologies, and economic activity.” (Clark et al. 2001)
The ability to predict the consequences of different activities on the ocean and
coastal environments provides decision-makers with strong justification for taking
specific actions that balance the multiple demands on these environments. CHHR scientists conduct, coordinate
and deliver the best science to support management decisions, through development
and use of predictive models and ecological forecasts for determining relationships
such as: 1) increasing coastal land development and associated ecosystem impacts,
and 2) marine environmental health and human health risks.
Current Work at the Center for Human Health Risk includes:
- Stormwater runoff prediction models:
- Forecasting tools for predicting the impacts of development in coastal ecosystems
allow scientists to predict changes to stormwater runoff, pollution loadings, ecosystem
integrity and community resilience. Currently, 53% of the US population lives in
coastal areas, and even in the context of normal growth, existing human density
and land conversion pressures will intensify (Crossett et al. 2004).. Additionally, as stated ).. Additionally, as stated in the
IPCC Technical Paper VI, climate change models indicate
an increase in the frequency of heavy precipitation events, magnifying the impact
of coastal development. More information is needed to support decision-making in
coastal ecosystems in the face of both increasing development and climate change.
The capability to predict increases in stormwater runoff at a local scale is critical
for coastal managers in developing appropriate land management approaches preserving
ecosystem services that protect communities against increased hazards of flooding
and pollution and to support ecosystem resiliency to changing environmental conditions.
uman Health Risk">CHHR’s stormwater runoff
models predict relative changes in watershed runoff at local scales for changing
levels of development, storm intensity, and annual precipitation. The models are
being refined as a major step toward developing pollutant loading forecasting ability.
Future model refinement will address sea level rise (SLR) because, in coastal areas,
SLR exacerbates the hazards resulting from increased development and climate change.
- Human health risk models:
- CHHR researchers are developing
models to predict human exposures to harmful chemical contaminants, algal toxins
and microbial pathogens through the marine environment and to understand the potential
long-term health effects. Models developed at
CHHR integrate exposure data from sentinel marine species and sentinel
habitats to identify coastal areas with the highest risks for human exposures to
chemical contaminants and microbial pathogens.
Certain algae produce toxins that impact human health, particularly respiration and
nervous system function. Trophic transfer models are used to understand the movement
of algal toxins through marine food webs to predict likely human exposures. Human
health risks from the predicted exposures are assessed by comparing exposure estimates
with threshold values established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
CHHR studies of toxic effects
and development of exposure-response models for marine organisms such as marine
mammals help to better understand potential adverse health effects in humans and
refine human risk assessment models.
Environmental monitoring and research studies of habitat and marine animal condition
provides critical baseline information for forecasting. When combined with appropriate
data analysis and exposure modeling the information can be used to identify and
quantify critical vectors and pathways of exposure. These types of predictive models
will assist health practitioners and coastal managers in understanding the strong
linkages among ecosystem health of coastal environments and human health. Through
the use of these predictive forecasts human health risks can be avoided, reduced
Forecasts offer scenarios for coastal managers to consider in their decision making.
Research and model development is driven by identified coastal manager needs to
better understand linkages between ecosystem condition, changing environmental impacts
(e.g. climate change, coastal development), and human health concerns. Additionally,
contributions of these assessments at
CHHR, and others across
NCCOS, are expected to support various marine spatial planning
needs nationally and internationally. The broad range of science expertise available
at the Hollings Marine Laboratory is useful for developing ecosystem assessments
as expertise in environmental microbiology, contaminant chemistry, marine animals,
marine ecotoxicology, statistics, risk assessments, and marine ecology capabilities
are able to be successfully applied.
For more information:
Clark, J.S. Science 293, 657 (2001)
Bates, B.C., Z.W. Kundzewicz, S. Wu and J.P. Palutikof, Eds. 2008. Climate Change
and Water. Technical Paper of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC
Secretariat, Geneva, 210 pp.
Crossett, K.M., T.J Culliton, P.C. Wiley, and T.R. Goodspeed. 2004. Population Trends
Along the Coastal United States:1980-2008. Coastal Trends Report. Silver Spring,
MD: NOAA, National Ocean Service. 47 pp.
Valette-Silver, N. nad D. Scavia. Eds. 2003. Ecological Forecasting: New Tools
for Coastal and Marine Ecosytem Management, NOAA Technical Memorandum