The thirteen federal agencies, departments, and offices that oversee research in the Arctic have developed a new five-year plan for scientific activities in the region. The plan for years 2013-2017 identifies seven priorities for U.S. Arctic research. Biological and environmental research forms the basis of several of the goals.
One interagency research initiative would seek to better understand terrestrial ecosystem processes and services as part of an effort to better understand climate change in the Arctic. The report identifies improved coordination and integration of terrestrial ecosystem research among agencies as one step towards obtaining this goal.
Another goal is to improve our knowledge of the physical and biological dynamics of the Arctic Ocean. Deploying the Distributed Biological Observatory could be one aspect of obtaining such data. The proposed observatory would monitor and record biophysical data in marine environments in the Arctic.
Other goals involve improving regional climate models, assessing impacts of climate change on Arctic communities, and studying the health issues of indigenous peoples.
Although not explicitly stated in the overarching goals, the research plan does address oil and gas development. The draft report includes plans for conducting environmental risk assessments of the potential impacts of oil and natural gas production. New offshore drilling is proposed in the previously untapped Chukchi Sea; plans are also moving forward for expanded drilling in the Beaufort Sea. Drilling opponents are concerned that the state of the science is too sparse to adequately assess the risks of drilling or to be able to adequately respond to an oil spill.
Comments on the draft plan will be accepted through 22 June 2012. More information is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-05-29/html/2012-12790.htm.
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