1. Justin Kozak
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/4341
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  1. Micah Bennett
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/4342
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  1. Kelley Fritz
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/4340
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  1. Anne Hayden-Lesmeister
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/5229
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  1. Aaron Nickolotsky
  2. http://www.igert.org/profiles/4394
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

  • May 20, 2013 | 08:57 p.m.

    Please describe the number of ecosystem services that you considered. There seem to be too many to consider in this system of mixed ecosystems, from aquatic to riparian to terrestrial to coastal, with several specialized ecosystems within each broad system.

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 01:17 p.m.

    We considered a total of 21 ecosystem services, all influenced by flow regime in the Atchafalaya River Basin. They can be grouped into four categories: 1) Freshwater fish and crawfish; 2) oysters; (3) navigation; and (4) denitrification.

  • Icon for: Anne Hayden-Lesmeister

    Anne Hayden-Lesmeister

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 03:50 p.m.

    A substantial amount of research has been conducted in the ARB over the last several decades; this project represents an effort to synthesize these data sets so that researchers and policymakers have a clearer idea of research needs going forward. These services are varied and complex and this project should be viewed as a starting point for further refinement.

    We chose to focus mainly on services related to the riverine wetlands (not coastal). The exception was the inclusion of oyster data since these populations are significantly influenced by freshwater inputs from coastal rivers as flow regimes affect salinity and temperature levels of public seed grounds.

  • May 21, 2013 | 12:44 p.m.

    Given the complexity of the problem, can you place your concerns for the environment and/or local economy on some sort of scale of importance to deliver the most needed predictive models as rapidly as possible?

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 04:26 p.m.

    Good question. It is impossible to separate much of the local economy from the environmental quality of the Atchafalaya River Basin, so our concerns focus on the environment AND the local economy. Still, it is a difficult question to answer considering the many current uses of the Atchafalaya River Basin, the multiple scales of political and economic influence at work, and the changing priorities of managers over time. Current management efforts aim to restore and conserve the environmental quality of the Basin, but this wasn’t always the case. The 1970s brought about the first significant, coordinated effort for multi-use management since the Basin was designated a floodway in 1928, an effort that continues to the present day. The idea is that flood control in the Basin need not compromise environmental quality; however, significant alterations, a rapidly changing system, and many uncertainties confound the realization of that idea. A substantial amount of research has been conducted in the Basin over the last several decades to this end, but only recently has there been an effort to synthesize that body of research, which is where we focused our efforts. We felt that by exploring the relationships between many ecosystem services relevant to the local economy, managers would have a better understanding of the impact of their environmental management decisions.

  • May 21, 2013 | 09:31 p.m.

    Looking at the production function plots on your poster, I noticed two distinct forms. A linear decrease in several ecosystem services with increasing discharge (e.g., July oyster density), and the more common peaked responses. These peaked responses are interesting and potentially concerning because they suggest that some ecosystem services are only provided within a very narrow range of discharge. If this is correct, then area residents have always had to live with discrete trade-offs between services (in your examples, mostly fisheries). Are you then proposing a way to maximize provisioning of multiple services, or to help residents understand they must chose one over the other?

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 12:54 p.m.

    It is very difficult to prescribe specific flow parameters to maximize a suite of ecosystem services in any highly altered system. Instead, we sought to inform management objectives to help establish a starting point for the discussion of flow regime change rather than prescribing a solution. It is important to note that we do not consider our study to be exhaustive or predictive of the discharges for maximizing particular ecosystem services, but as suggestive of general relationships among services with changes in flow. There is significant uncertainty in the models we present due to aggregation to annual time series, our use of only one flow variable, small sample size for some services, and lag effects that complicate interpretation of relationships with same-year mean annual discharge. Aggregation of data into annual time series was necessary due to the nature of our study and limited data availability. However, this complicates interpretation of findings because many factors within a year could be contributing to the relationships.
    Again, our hope is that this project provides utility to managers, researchers and local stakeholders. For example, from a research/management standpoint, one conclusion is that using other flow metrics that incorporate seasonality/timing and variability could help identify more specific aspects of flow regime that are important to the ecosystem services we consider here. Visualization of these relationships may assist in communication between local stakeholders and managing agencies. While it may be possible to maximize provision of multiple services to a point, such a focused management strategy is likely to have negative and unintended ecological consequences given the high levels of biological uncertainty. As such, it is important for all stakeholders to realize that trade-offs are involved.

  • May 23, 2013 | 09:48 a.m.

    Thanks Justin. I knew that I was challenging you more than most of the presenters, and you fielded my comment admirably. I’ve worked on ecosystem service functions for the EPA myself and I completely understand (a) how difficult this is and (b) how much uncertainty is present in the system(s).

  • May 21, 2013 | 10:48 p.m.

    Dear Justin et al.,

    Great project! You mention towards the end of your video, that you hope the results from your project will help managers. Could you tell me a little more if/how you are collaborating with managers in your work? Have they informed your research questions? What plans you have to share your results, both interim and final with them? How you would handle a situation where your findings would be critical of what they have done?

    Thanks,
    Volker

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 01:08 p.m.

    We touch on a few of these questions in the answer to Dr. Anderson below, but I’ll delve a little deeper here. We’ve met with the current and past Acting Director of the Atchafalaya Basin Program to discuss ongoing issues and uncertainties facing managers in the Basin. In doing so, we not only learned about the nuances of the contentious issues, but also learned about issues that have general approval of both stakeholders and managers such as improved public access and a general concern for the ecological health of the Basin. A couple of our group members took a tour of parts of the Basin with a Technical Advisory Group member and we have had email correspondence with several others. These interactions helped inform our research questions so that they could be more relevant to the issues coming down the pipe. We plan on sharing our results with them, both our ecological and institutional analyses, and hope they will inform not only future management decisions but also institutional changes to the decision-making process that would promote the collaboration and cooperation of currently disenfranchised stakeholder groups.
    The one thing the ARB has more of than anything else (including flood water!) is criticism of, and conflict with, the managers of the Basin, so managers have developed pretty thick skin. Regardless, our approach has not been to be critical of what they have done as that would be somewhat backwards looking and less useful. Instead, we focused on assessing what they have done, what they are currently doing, what has worked, and what has resulted in conflict in order to guide our research. Over the years as more stakeholders groups have been brought into the discussion of how to manage the Basin the institutional structure has adapted to fit those needs. We hope to contribute to the next iteration of the decision-making process for the long-term benefit of the system.

  • May 22, 2013 | 02:30 a.m.

    The video was wonderful; what an interesting and daunting task your group has! It is a massive and (no doubt) under-appreciated project.How do the group members of Louisiana Resource and Promotion Board align their own priorities since many of these groups are so disparate? What kinds of scientific and social communications have you been able to establish with them or do you only share documents?

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 01:09 p.m.

    “How do the group members of Louisiana Resource and Promotion Board align their priorities with each other since many of these groups are disparate?”

    Daunting is a very good word for it. The multiple interests and the radical uncertainty in the bio-physical system are characteristics we have had to negotiate in our studies and the Research and Promotion Board (RPB) must also in their capacity. The RPB seeks to align their priorities with each other through an Annual Plan process with the mission to “conserve, restore, and enhance (where possible) the natural habitat of the Atchafalaya Basin and give all people the opportunity to enjoy the Atchafalaya Experience.” The RPB’s duties include adopting criteria for water management and water quality projects for the Annual Plan, soliciting project proposals at public hearings, approving and prioritizing developed projects, addressing public comments, and publishing the Annual Plan. Most of these projects require a suite of spatially dispersed features which allows for multiple considerations across a variety of disciplines. Our experience is that the groups of the RPB work well to manage their different missions and objectives among themselves as they are often complementary. Over the years the governance structure of the ARB has evolved to promote this beneficial collaboration among both state and federal agencies. Presently, conflicts are not rooted among the groups of the RPB but rather between the RPB and the many stakeholder groups who perceive a back-end inclusion of their ideas.

    “How have you been able to share ideas with them as you studied the existing data?”

    So far, our interaction with the agencies involved has been discussions on the larger water management issues and the stakeholder dynamics in the Basin as a means to guide our research. Ultimately, our goal is to share documents and continue to find a way to promote collaboration between these groups. Our status as outsiders can be seen as both a negative and a positive, potentially. Because of past interactions (a rather heavy-handed top-down approach given the ARB’s designation as a federal floodway), there is lingering mistrust of managing agencies; our project may be viewed as more neutral. One of our approaches has been to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) doing work in the ARB. We feel they may be able to play a unique role in changing the communication dynamics to facilitate more productive collaborations between government agencies and local stakeholders since the mission and core values of many NGOs include a commitment to non-confrontational, collaborative approaches that respect local cultures while remaining committed to the best available conservation science. Also, they already have established working relationships with many of the key players in the basin (both the RPB and TAG), providing us with an invaluable resource as we explored these issues.

    *Please see the response to Dr. Radeloff’s question above for a bit more on our scientific and social communications with managers of the ARB.

  • May 22, 2013 | 06:54 p.m.

    Justin, thank you for your candid and constructive comments. Concensus-building is both a science and an art. This complex IGERT experience will be invaluable to your success. Dr. Anderson

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Presentation Discussion
  • Icon for: Maggi Sliwinski

    Maggi Sliwinski

    Trainee
    May 22, 2013 | 07:23 p.m.

    Has there been any talk of using adaptive management to help manage this system?

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 07:52 p.m.

    Since 2008 there has been a state-level Annual Planning process (the first Annual Plan was released in 2010) in which water management and water quality projects are proposed by local stakeholders and developed by a Technical Advisory Group composed of subject area experts in agencies and academia. This approach espouses adaptive management principles as it allows managers to incorporate new information into future annual plans. However, funding issues and a lack of cooperation by various stakeholder groups has slowed the process considerably. We feel that a possible solution to this dilemma is the inclusion of non-governmental stakeholders (e.g. private landowners and commercial fishermen)throughout the decision-making process. Their cooperation, traditional ecological knowledge, and capacity for significant monitoring could go a long way to improving an adaptive management approach in a system where agency resources are stretched thin. As is usually the case, though, this is much easier said than done.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Faculty
    May 23, 2013 | 07:14 a.m.

    A very effective video presentation — I am on a team of people developing a “biocomplexity” course for high school, with NSF funding, and this is a PERFECT case study of a CNH system.
    I notice in your poster that the “stakeholders” in the “Social component” include few or no real representatives of on-the-ground folk, like fishermen or local land-owners, such as you mention. I see proxies for them — state fisheries people, etc. So it seems very agency heavy. Are there fishermen’s or landowners’ associations that could more fully represent those points of view? And who is paying attention to your developing models of the system (which seem very useful even at their current stage of development)?

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 10:18 a.m.

    That is an excellent observation and lies at the heart of the problem regarding the current management structure. While the Annual Plan process includes local stakeholder input and project proposals through a limited number of public hearings during initial planning stages, these hearings involve fairly low-level stakeholder inclusion (although it is important to note that this is an improvement upon earlier efforts). Ultimately, these local stakeholders are not involved in the decision-making process as it progresses; rather project development and final decisions are left to the RPB and TAG, which as you note are quite agency heavy. For local stakeholders, the lack of ownership throughout the decision-making process has led to some disillusionment with the process, which is unfortunate given the large number of them whose support is needed for policy decisions to be viewed as legitimate and equitable. Further, we feel that the inclusion of local stakeholders throughout the decision-making progress would substantially expand the resources and information available to managers in the Basin.
    In addition to the federal, state, local, and tribal governmental stakeholder groups, other important stakeholders can be roughly placed into two broad groupings: 1) non-governmental organizations and 2) local business and industry stakeholder groups (including commercial fishing, recreation, navigation and ports, energy, timber, and landowners).
    We plan to make our findings available to any managing agencies, academic institutions, NGOs, or others who may find them useful for guiding further research or policy implementation.

  • Icon for: Graham Fogg

    Graham Fogg

    Faculty
    May 23, 2013 | 02:06 p.m.

    Nice project on a complex system. Your poster mentions the need for a new approach to stakeholder involvement in decision making. This would seem to be a key problem, on which the ultimate benefits of your research could hinge.

  • Icon for: Justin Kozak

    Justin Kozak

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 05:20 p.m.

    This is very true. The success of many of the environmental restoration and water management projects currently approved or underway in the Basin are dependent on the cooperation of local stakeholder groups, especially with half the Basin in private ownership. There is ongoing work on a proposal for a new approach to stakeholder involvement that fits with the existing governance system which has many good qualities to it: capacity for adaptive management, a dedicated governing body, and a strong commitment to a structured, scientific review process for management decisions.

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.