IAI Workshop on Comparative Studies of Oceanic, Coastal and Estuarine Processes in Temperate Zones

by Ruben Lara Lara

August 2-6, 1993, Montevideo, Uruguay was the setting for IAI's first workshop to advance the science agenda for the topic Comparative Studies of Oceanic, Coastal and Estuarine Processes in Temperate Zones. Over 80 scientists from the region, as well as representatives from international programs participated in a three day symposium on oceanic, coastal and estuarine processes in temperate zones, in which scientists from throughout the region shared their research studies and programs. The Institute held a two-day workshop during which scientific experts from across the Americas collaborated in producing an extensive report with recommendations on IAI's science agenda for this topic.

The workshop consisted of six working groups: Oceanic Processes; Coastal Processes; Estuarine, Coastal, Lagoons, Fjords, Rivers and Salt Marshes Processes; Data Management and Communications; IAI and International Programs; and Capacity and Needs for Education and Training. The following are conclusions from each working group on initial steps which need to be taken in the development of the research program:

Oceanic Processes. The temperate coasts of North and South America present a unique global research opportunity to compare two pairs of eastern and western boundary currents that share some important features but differ in others. Some of the key issues that should be addressed from this comparative perspective to further our understanding of the impacts of global change on oceanic processes are:

Coastal Processes. This working group arrived at the following six general issues which must be addressed so that we may gain an improved understanding of the impacts of global change in the coastal zone:

Estuaries, Coastal Lagoons, Fjords, Rivers and Salt Marshes. These environments at the land-sea interface are the buffer zone between land and ocean. This interface therefore is the receptacle for most natural and anthropogenic materials reaching the ocean from land. The working group concluded that there are five key issues to address in these regions:

One of the greatest challenges faced by the workshop participants was the integration of policy-relevant issues into the natural science perspective. As one of IAI's founding principals, the integration of natural and social sciences has to be advanced in order for the regional community to reach a comprehensive understanding of global change and its impact on society. This integration is an increasingly needed step if we are to work towards a sustainable future.

Training and Education. Several approaches to promoting multi-national and international training and education in IAI Member Nations were considered. Some possible approaches include: fostering cooperative multinational and interdisciplinary research programs; promoting visits and short-term courses of scientists with recognized areas of expertise; convening regional meetings for natural and social scientists; updating undergraduate and graduate-level curricula; supporting exchange visits, pre- and post-doctoral training opportunities in member IAI countries and joint research projects; and developing modeling capabilities in the region.

Data and Information Management. Data and information management provides a critical bridge between national and international global change observations and scientific understanding. This knowledge is the keystone of effective policy decisions regarding environmental issues. During this workshop, scientists from throughout the region agreed on the need to use the data management infrastructure already available in other international programs to facilitate access to data throughout the entire regional scientific community.

IAI and Other International Programs. A broad range of international interactions among global, regional, and national programs addressing the IAI scientific objectives and the major cross-cutting issues such as data exchange and management, modeling, and capacity building are necessary for effective and efficient planning and implementation of such efforts. During the workshop, we reached the conclusion that the main objectives of these interactions should include efforts to facilitate and encourage coordination and cooperation among programs to more optimally use scientific resources, including personnel, facilities, and financial resources; and also to cooperate in identifying priorities and significant gaps that need to be filled to ensure complementarity among the programs.

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