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John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis

Powell Center Products

A framework for identifying and characterising coral reef “oases” against a backdrop of degradation

Powell Center Working Group Products - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 13:49
  1. Human activities have led to widespread ecological decline; however, the severity of degradation is spatially heterogeneous due to some locations resisting, escaping, or rebounding from disturbances.
  2. We developed a framework for identifying oases within coral reef regions using long‐term monitoring data. We calculated standardised estimates of coral cover (z‐scores) to distinguish sites that deviated positively from regional means. We also used the coefficient of variation (CV) of coral cover to quantify how oases varied temporally, and to distinguish among types of oases. We estimated “coral calcification capacity” (CCC), a measure of the coral community's ability to produce calcium carbonate structures and tested for an association between this metric and z‐scores of coral cover.
  3. We illustrated our z‐score approach within a modelling framework by extracting z‐scores and CVs from simulated data based on four generalized trajectories of coral cover. We then applied the approach to time‐series data from long‐term reef monitoring programmes in four focal regions in the Pacific (the main Hawaiian Islands and Mo'orea, French Polynesia) and western Atlantic (the Florida Keys and St. John, US Virgin Islands). Among the 123 sites analysed, 38 had positive z‐scores for median coral cover and were categorised as oases.
  4. Synthesis and applications. Our framework provides ecosystem managers with a valuable tool for conservation by identifying “oases” within degraded areas. By evaluating trajectories of change in state (e.g., coral cover) among oases, our approach may help in identifying the mechanisms responsible for spatial variability in ecosystem condition. Increased mechanistic understanding can guide whether management of a particular location should emphasise protection, mitigation or restoration. Analysis of the empirical data suggest that the majority of our coral reef oases originated by either escaping or resisting disturbances, although some sites showed a high capacity for recovery, while others were candidates for restoration. Finally, our measure of reef condition (i.e., median z‐scores of coral cover) correlated positively with coral calcification capacity suggesting that our approach identified oases that are also exceptional for one critical component of ecological function.

Hydrological, Physical, and Chemical Functions and Connectivity of Non‐Floodplain Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review

Powell Center Working Group Products - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:57

We reviewed the scientific literature on non‐floodplain wetlands (NFWs), freshwater wetlands typically located distal to riparian and floodplain systems, to determine hydrological, physical, and chemical functioning and stream and river network connectivity. We assayed the literature for source, sink, lag, and transformation functions, as well as factors affecting connectivity. We determined NFWs are important landscape components, hydrologically, physically, and chemically affecting downstream aquatic systems. NFWs are hydrologic and chemical sources for other waters, hydrologically connecting across long distances and contributing compounds such as methylated mercury and dissolved organic matter. NFWs reduced flood peaks and maintained baseflows in stream and river networks through hydrologic lag and sink functions, and sequestered or assimilated substantial nutrient inputs through chemical sink and transformative functions. Landscape‐scale connectivity of NFWs affects water and material fluxes to downstream river networks, substantially modifying the characteristics and function of downstream waters. Many factors determine the effects of NFW hydrological, physical, and chemical functions on downstream systems, and additional research quantifying these factors and impacts is warranted. We conclude NFWs are hydrologically, chemically, and physically interconnected with stream and river networks though this connectivity varies in frequency, duration, magnitude, and timing.

Candidate Products for Operational Earthquake Forecasting Illustrated Using the HayWired Planning Scenario, Including One Very Quick (and Not‐So‐Dirty) Hazard‐Map Option

Powell Center Working Group Products - Fri, 05/11/2018 - 09:56

In an effort to help address debates on the usefulness of operational earthquake forecasting (OEF), we illustrate a number of OEF products that could be automatically generated in near‐real time. To exemplify, we use an MM 7.1 mainshock on the Hayward fault, which is very similar to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) HayWired earthquake planning scenario. Given that there is always some background level of hazard or risk, we emphasize that probability gains (the ratio of short‐term to long‐term‐average estimates) might be of particular interest to users. We also illustrate how such gains are highly sensitive to forecast duration and latency, with the latter representing how long it takes to generate the forecast and/or to take action. The influence of fault‐based information, which has traditionally been ignored in OEF, is also evaluated using the newly developed the third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast epidemic‐type aftershock sequence (UCERF3‐ETAS) model. We find that the inclusion of faults only makes a difference for hazard and risk metrics that are dominated by large‐event likelihoods. We also show how the ShakeMap of a mainshock represents a decent estimate of the ground motions that have a 6% chance of being exceeded due to aftershocks in the week that follows. The ultimate value of these types of OEF products can only be determined in the context of specific uses, and because these vary widely, institutions responsible for providing OEF products will depend heavily on user feedback, especially when making resource‐allocation decisions.

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