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This report constitutes the SAB Panel’s response to charge questions posed by the
EPA Office of Water. This Advisory reaffirms the major findings of the Integrated Assessment, while pointing out the need for economic incentives to encourage conservation in the Mississippi Atchafalaya River basin. Although the science has
grown, actions to control hypoxia have lagged. The SAB urges the EPA and other
agencies to utilize the recommendations of this Advisory and move ahead with implementing programs, strategies and policies to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone and improve water quality in the Mississippi Atchafalaya River basin.
Most of the research and monitoring needs identified in the Integrated Assessment have not been met, and fewer rivers and streams are monitored today than in 2000. The majority of monitoring recommendations in the Integrated Assessment remain relevant and should be heeded, specifically the CENR’s call to improve and expand monitoring of the temporal and spatial extent of hypoxia and the processes controlling its formation; the flux of nutrients, carbon, and other constituents from non-point sources throughout the MARB and to the NGOM; and measured (rather than estimated) nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes from municipal and industrial point sources. Echoing the CENR, the SAB Panel affirms the need for research on the ecological effects of hypoxia; watershed nutrient dynamics; effects of different agricultural practices on nutrient losses from land, particularly at the small watershed scale; nutrient cycling and carbon dynamics; long-term changes in hydrology and climate; and economic and social impacts of hypoxia. A suite of models is needed to simulate the processes and linkages that regulate the onset, duration and extent of hypoxia. Emerging coastal ocean observation and prediction systems should be encouraged to monitor dissolved oxygen and other physical and biogeochemical parameters needed to continue improving hypoxia models.
Although there are over 90 recommendations in this report, the following major recommendations reflect the SAB Panel’s consideration of the new science that has emerged since the Integrated Assessment.
To advance the science characterizing hypoxia and its causes, the SAB Panel finds that research is needed to:
With respect to advancing the science on sources, fate and transport of nutrients, the SAB Panel finds that research is needed to:
To enhance the scientific basis for implementation of management options, the SAB Panel finds that research is needed to:
To reduce the size of the hypoxic zone, the SAB Panel recommends at least a 45% reduction in N accompanied by a comparable reduction in P. The Panel found five areas that offer the most significant opportunities for N and P reductions:
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