Gulf of Mexico Report Card Prototype for Texas
A prototype Report Card on the health of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.
Assessing the health of the Gulf of Mexico is a complex and extensive undertaking, requiring the development of an integrated assessment/management framework and a diversity of data sets.
HRI Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney and HRI Chief Scientist Dr. Wes Tunnell led a world-renowned team of experts in a multi-year effort to develop a process to assess the health of the Gulf of Mexico on an ongoing basis. The HRI team have led the successful development of report cards around the world, from the Chesapeake Bay to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but the scale of the Gulf is far beyond that, so the team picked the Texas coast as the place to develop its prototype.
Coastal Texas and its watersheds provide an excellent model of the entire Gulf of Mexico for developing an EcoHealth Metrics Report Card because of the diversity and complexity of its ecosystems, human communities, and associated environmental pressures and stressors. Consequently, the Texas Pilot Project will serve as a proof-of-concept evaluation or “prototype” of the framework and its implementation of the Gulf of Mexico Report Card. When complete the report card will produce a science-based objective assessment of ecosystem health on a scale never before attempted.
The HRI Report Card process brought together experts led by Dr. Mark Harwell and Dr. Jack Gentile of Harwell Gentile and Associates LLC to assess the health of key ecosystem health indicators, designated as Valued Ecosystem Components (VEC). For the Texas Gulf Report Card, the VEC’s chosen were seagrasses, oyster reefs, birds and fisheries. The Gulf framework represents the integrated expression of the two leading ecosystem assessment efforts used around the world focused on risk assessment and pressure state responses. The results of that complex analysis and synthesis represent an objective science-based process that citizens, managers, policymakers and scientists can easily access, yet dive into and examine the most basic data and information, if they wish. The goal is a transparent process that is credible and sustainable into the future.
The future of the Gulf Report Card will depend on HRI’s ability to attract the funding to take the prototype to Gulfwide scale and sustain it into the future. The institute is committed to sustaining such an effort but will need additional funding to complete the first assessment. Bringing together Gulf experts: to partition the Gulf into workable units; agree on ecosystem indicators (VECs) on that scale; and, initiate the process is a significant funding challenge.