Integrated Sentinel Monitoring for Change in Northeastern Ocean and Coastal Ecosystems

Why was this project initiated?

Climate change has a pervasive effect on many marine, estuarine, and coastal ecosystem functions in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. Sea level rise, changing storm patterns and intensity, increased water temperature, altered circulation, increased stratification and ocean acidification are expected to intensify. Important biological resources, including commercial fisheries, will be increasingly affected. A joint, regional strategic planning exercise coordinated by NERACOOS, (Northeast Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems) and NROC (Northeast Regional Ocean Council), and involving a dozen other regional organizations identified a pressing need to establish an integrated regional sentinel monitoring network to observe and interpret these changes. The network would inform researchers, managers, and the public about ecosystem vulnerabilities and impacts, and support an ecosystem-approach to management framework that promotes human and ecosystem resiliency from climate change and related stressors. 

What is the goal of the project?

To develop a science and implementation plan for an adaptive sentinel monitoring program in the Northeast coastal region that integrates existing regional monitoring efforts, assets, and resources to assess the status and trends of key indicators at select sites and geographic subregions.

To achieve this goal, the Northeast Sentinel Monitoring Steering Committee has developed a vision and objectives and a framework for implementation. Regional pelagic, benthic and estuarine and nearshore habitat work groups have been formed and tasked with identifying a suite of sentinel ecosystem variables and indicators, compiling information on existing observing activities, identifying gaps in the present observing system and contributing to the synthesis of an integrated regional plan. A key outcome will be to procure funding to fill monitoring and data gaps that establish a self-sustaining, integrated sentinel monitoring program for the Northeast.

What is the geographic scope?

The northeast coastal region comprises coastal waters and habitats from Long Island Sound to the Bay of Fundy, including salt marshes, estuaries, marine waters, coastal embankments and the entire continental shelf system.

How can I participate?

We encourage participation from our colleagues in this collaborative effort. Please contact one of the project chairs to join our effort and lend your expertise by participating in a working group. We are also conducting an inventory of monitoring efforts throughout the region to be housed in a meta-database, accessible to our partners, researchers, managers and the public. Please contact Jackie Ball at jball@neracoos.org for details.   

Project co-chairs

Project Documents

IOOC Community White Paper_Runge et. al 2012

ISMN Science and Implementation Plan

Mel Coté, U.S. EPA (Cote.Mel@epa.gov)
Brian Thompson, Connecticut DEEP (Brian.Thompson@ct.gov)
Jeffrey Runge, University of Maine (Jeffrey.Runge@maine.edu)

Participating Organizations:


Reference Links

Regional Meta-Database

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Casco Bay Estuary Partnership

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Fisheries and Ocean Canada

Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Gulf of Maine Council Ecosystem Indicator Partnership

Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Maine Department of Marine Resources

Maine Geological Survey

Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program

Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries

Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service


New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission

New Haven University

Northeastern University

Northeast Regional Ocean Council

Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Suffolk University 

The Nature Conservancy

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Geological Survey

University of Connecticut

University of Maine

University of Massachusetts Boston

University of New Hampshire

University of Rhode Island

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution