In 1998 the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Park Service formed the Collaborative Environmental Monitoring and Research Initiative (CEMRI) to test strategies for integrated environmental monitoring among the agencies. The initiative combined monitoring and research efforts of the participating Federal programs to evaluate health and sustainability of forest and freshwater aquatic systems in the Delaware River Basin. Forest ecosystem health issues addressed by the CEMRI effort include urbanization and forest fragmentation, productivity and carbon sequestration, nitrogen saturation and calcium depletion, vulnerability to exotic insects, and the effects of interactions among these factors. Ongoing monitoring programs were enhanced with supplemental sampling locations and measurements, and models were developed or modified to associate intensive process-level information with extensive landscape-scale information from satellite, aerial, and ground monitoring systems. The CEMRI project illustrates a powerful approach for integrated tracking of environmental conditions, development of models for predicting responses of forest and aquatic processes to perturbations, estimation of future forest conditions, and identification of threats to watershed health and forest sustainability.
Numerous meetings of the lead agencies, and the results of a stakeholder meeting hosted by the multi-State Delaware River Basin Commission, led to the identification of forested landscape issues that required data from multiple spatial scales and multiple resource groups:
- Measuring and monitoring forest C stocks and fluxes
- Identifying and monitoring forests vulnerable to non-native invasive insect species
- Monitoring effects of calcium (Ca) depletion and nitrogen (N) saturation in forests subjected to acidic deposition in the Appalachian Plateau
- Measuring and monitoring forest fragmentation and land use change, and associated ecosystem changes
- Integrating the effect of terrestrial ecosystem health and land use on the hydrology, habitat, and water quality of the Delaware River and Estuary
Addressing these five issues was the focus of the Delaware CEMRI pilot study.
The CEMRI approach began with an evaluation of the capabilities of existing monitoring programs, followed by identification of opportunities and approaches to enhance these programs for addressing specific issues. By supplementing and adjusting existing monitoring and research strategies, collaborating programs can continue to meet specific agency missions while also contributing to multiscale, multiresource inventory and monitoring systems. To demonstrate this approach, three Federal agencies developed the CEMRI strategy to evaluate the condition of forests and associated waterways in the DRB.
The USFS and USGS conceived of evaluating several important watershed health issues in the Delaware Basin using a multiple spatial scale, multiresource approach, primarily by enhancing and integrating existing forest and aquatic resource monitoring programs. Shortly thereafter, the CEMRI was joined by the NPS Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DEWA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The CEMRI pilot study integrated environmental data collection from intensive study sites (the Neversink Watershed, the DEWA and its tributary watersheds, and the French Creek Watershed) with regional ground-based monitoring networks using stream monitoring stations and a randomly distributed network of forest sampling locations. Remote sensing was used to characterize the land area on a spatially explicit basis over time, and the spatially integrated field datasets were used as ground truth.
The CEMRI approach of a) integrating and enhancing existing monitoring programs to address key forest health and sustainability issues at multiple spatial scales and b) using a large watershed as a common frame of reference is a practical solution for compiling the data from diverse monitoring systems necessary to address complex regional environmental issues. Implementation requires sponsorship by participating agencies, clearly identified issues to be evaluated, and a willingness to modify or enhance existing monitoring systems and analytical models. Once established, the integrated research and monitoring system results in a desirable template to attract other monitoring and research programs to this data-rich arena and greatly expands the interpretive capabilities of the individual programs involved.
Additional information including links to data and research products are available on the CEMRI web site.
Murdoch, Peter S.; Jenkins, Jennifer C.; Birdsey, Richard A. 2008. The Delaware River Basin Collaborative Environmental Monitoring and Research Initiative: Foundation Document. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-25. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 93 p.
Stolte, Kenneth W.; Murdoch, Peter; Jenkins, Jennifer; Birdsey, Richard; Evans, Richard. 2003. Multi-scale evaluation of watershed health in the Delaware River Basin and CERMI. In: Renard, Kenneth G.; McElroy, Stephen A.; Gburek, William J., eds. First Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds. 2003 October 27-30; Tucson, AZ. 235-241.
- Rich Birdsey, Program Manager, US Forest Service- Northern Research Station
- John Hom, Biological Scientist, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Rakesh Minocha, Plant Physiologist / Biochemist, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Michael Montgomery, Research Entomologist, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Yude Pan , Research Forester, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Rachel Riemann, Research Forester / Geographer, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Walter Shortle, Research Plant Pathologist, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Kevin T. Smith, Project Leader / Supervisory Plant Physiologist, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Kathleen Shields, Retired, US Forest Service – Northern Research Station
- Peter Murdoch, U.S. Geological Survey
- Gregory Lawrence, U.S. Geological Survey
- Karen Riva-Murray, U.S. Geological Survey
- Jeffrey Fisher, U.S. Geological Survey
- Richard Evans, National Park Service
- Jennifer Jenkins, University of Vermont
- David Williams, USDA APHIS
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