Harte Research Institute and its two partners,
& Associates and the University of Maryland
Center for Environmental Science, are working together to develop a comprehensive "Report Card"
to help gauge the health of the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystems.
The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Report Card Framework will be rolled out at the State of the
2011 State of
the Gulf of Mexico Summit to be held at the Omni Galleria in
Houston December 4-8. Organized by HRI, the Summit
will be a critical meeting of about 400 Gulf scientists, managers and leaders.
The Report Card will provide the scientific information and
understanding necessary to evaluate the health of the Gulf, to
clearly demonstrate how well it is or is not progressing towards
desired long-term goals, and to inform decision makers on the
policies and resources needed to achieve sustainability of a
healthy Gulf of Mexico. The project will provide a scientific, graphical representation of the Gulf's current
environmental condition. It will be organized into
different sections and provide separate reports for each of the
various regions and habitats of the Gulf ecosystem.
When fully developed, the Report Card will be made available to
a wide variety of people, from the highest levels of decision
makers to the most detailed scientific investigators to the general
When President Obama announced the formation of
the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
on October 5, 2010, he said that within one year “the Task Force
shall prepare a strategy that proposes a Gulf Coast ecosystem
restoration agenda, including goals for ecosystem restoration,
development of a set of performance indicators to track progress,
and means of coordinating intergovernmental restoration efforts
guided by shared priorities.” The Report Card will act as a performance indicator to
help evaluate this new Gulf Coast restoration program.
Because of the Gulf's scale and complexity, achieving a healthy and sustainable Gulf of Mexico will
require an extensive, sustained national effort that addresses not
only the consequences of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and the
suite of recent devastating hurricanes, but also the myriad of other impacts on the Gulf from human
- increased nutrients and chemicals that
flow into the Gulf from the watershed that drains more than half of
the continental US, including America’s agricultural heartland
- rapidly expanding development of cities and industry fueled by
energy, transportation, tourism and other major industries
invasive species that have spread across the region
- pervasive consequences of global climate change, including the
specter of rapidly rising sea levels along highly vulnerable
The scientific information included in
the Report Card can become a valuable tool for guiding environmental
policy making and ecosystem restoration. As the Report Card is updated over the years, patterns of pressures and impacts
providing insight into how successful policies have been in
accomplishing their goals.