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The Australian Coastal Zone and Global Change: Research Needs

Australian Academy of Science, Becker House, Canberra. Friday 16 December 1994

LOICZ: an international research project

Dr Patrick Holligan

Thank you very much, Bruce. Well, it is a great pleasure to be here. I have been involved over the last two or three years with many national IGBP-LOICZ meetings. I have two reasons for liking being here: you have a wonderful country and you have a very big country. This makes an enormous difference when we come to look at a global or large-scale project. I know that we are talking about large-scale processes by being in Australia, whereas in other countries we are not necessarily talking at that level at all.

I am going to talk a little bit about the history of the project, the way it is structured and about some of the framework activities. I hope I can do this in a little less than half an hour, so that I can pass on to Stephan Kempe to talk about some of the scientific research foci, to try and generate some interest at the scientific level. We probably will not have time to get on to the last focus of this project, which is focus four, in part because there is so much material to present, but also in part because neither of us are really expert in this area. I will just draw your attention to that and if it is something that we want to bring up in discussion, I can provide some extra information about it.

Now, by way of introduction, I do not think I need to say anything, about the IGBP program, except to say it started in the late 1980s and, without going through the whole objective, it is essentially to describe and understand the interactive physical, chemical and biological processes that regulate the total Earth system. So it is into that context that we are trying to fit a coastal zone project. I should also draw your attention to the fact that the IGBP is only one of a set of global research programs, the other really important ones being the World Climate Research Program and the Human Dimensions Program. As with all of the IGBP projects there are elements that relate to these as well. So those linkages are very important. Also, of course, there are the linkages to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change activities which you have just heard about and those for the coastal zone are very significant. I have actually been involved in various ways in the IPCC process, but unfortunately just have not had the proper time to really participate as strongly as I had hoped.

Now, just to remind you about the IGBP: it has a characteristic structure. Its sponsoring body is ICSU. Within the IGBP there is a secretariat, there is a scientific committee which has just been meeting this week in Thredbo. Underneath them lies a series of scientific steering committees, task forces and project offices that relate to a number of approved core projects, one of which is LOICZ, and a number of framework activities and a number of projects that lie in the future. We tend to try and fit an individual project like LOICZ into this general framework. So that our linkages not only have to be towards the research community that represents the coastal zone, but the research community that represents these other projects that lie around the coastal zone and, as you will see in a minute, these are very important. I just want to say that of course IGBP is not a funding agency, so the issue of funding constantly comes up. One of the things that we are trying to do within this project is to generate our resources.

OH 1: system for analysis, research and training diagram

Overhead 1

LOICZ started in the late 1980s and the first meeting was held in 1989. At that time it was a meeting about the edge of the continental shelf. It was essentially a meeting of marine scientists who were looking at the boundary condition to the oceans. Very quickly it was realised we could not hold it within the marine sector alone, so we became concerned with the land margin as well and it became effectively a coastal zone project. In that form it has been slotted into the IGBP diagram of how their various projects relate. You can see it sits between the hydrological cycle work, the BAHC project (refer Overhead 1), the GCTE and, of course, JGOFS to the ocean. They, in turn, are all nested within these framework activities and within the PAGES Project.

Following those first meetings we prepared a Science Plan through the work of a core project planning committee that published a brief document in 1992. This document has been the starting point for the work of the Scientific Steering Committee that was appointed in early 1993, once the project was established as a Core component within the IGBP. The Committee was appointed to produce the Implementation Plan which we now have in draft form.

With the establishment of the project we obtained funds to run the project in Holland, and the Netherlands Institute of Sea Research which is an oceanographic research institute which and the location for the project office. The office was opened in early November 1993, so it has now been working for just over a year. The Scientific Steering Committee has now met three times, although of course the first one or two meetings were very much of a preliminary type.

Overhead 2

LOICZ Scientific Steering Committee
E Gomez (Philippines) H Postama (Holland)
VGordeev (Russia) T Richey (USA)
D Gordon (Canada) S Smith (USA)
P Holligan (UK) K Turner (UK)
D Hu (China, Beijing) C Woodroffe (Australia)
S Ibarra Obando (Mexico) F Wolff (Sweden)
S Kempe (Germany) T Yanagi (Japan)
J Milliman

This is the present membership of the Scientific Steering Committee (Overhead 2). Five of those people have recently joined and have not yet attended a meeting of this committee. So we are still very much in the formative stage. We of course do not represent by any means all the disciplines that we have to use for coastal studies. Of course, in going through the Implementation Plan - it does mean that we recognise there are significant gaps in our scientific thinking that we have not been able to plug yet. So we see this very much as an evolutionary document. We fully expect bits of it to be drawn out, pulled to pieces, reconstituted and so on. That process is very much an ongoing one for us and we now really want to engage the wider scientific community in doing that.

The project office itself is run by John Pernetta. Again, I think some of you will know him because he spent a significant part of his career in Papua New Guinea. He is a biological scientist. He has a lot of experience of managerial problems and, in that sense, is very well fit to run an office of this sort. He is now supported by a full-time secretary and we have a data scientist, Paul Woodrow, from the Bedford Institute in Canada, starting work in Holland. So that office component is growing; it is strong. We have good communications in place now and we have someone at the centre who is making things happen.

In the last year and in the preparation for the implementation plans a number of meetings have been held and I do not want to dwell on these in any sense (refer Overhead 3). But for the most part these have produced their own reports which are now available from the project office. Just to point out the scale of activities that has gone on, we have not just worked with the Scientific Steering Committee; we have worked with a broader range of people. Some of you will know, of course, that one of these meetings was held in Townsville in May 1994. So I just show you that for background information. If any of you are interested in any of these, you can write to the project office for copies of the reports that have come out of those.

The next stage is that we will prepare a final version of the implementation plan in January. When that will actually be available I am not quite sure because we have not quite worked out how long the printing will take. That will be distributed to people we have on our mailing list, which is something like a thousand people. It is being prepared in time for the next meeting of the project which is going to be held in the Philippines at the end of April. This is effectively a science meeting. It is to draw attention of the implementation plan to the wider scientific community. We look forward to representation from this country at that meeting. Information about the meeting and invitations will go through either your national IGBP committee or your LOICZ committee, where that exists.

The definition of the project will be continually evolving through meetings such as that but we are now looking at roughly a ten-year time scale for doing the work involved. That gives you some idea that we do have a beginning and we do have an end and within the planning those will be seen quite clearly.

Perhaps the other thing just to draw your attention to is that within the implementation plan you will see information about how projects like this might work, both in the budgetary sense and in the sense of how they link through with the scientific community. This gives you some idea of the way we think in terms of this problem. Because we are not a funding agency, most of the money for the work comes through national funding agencies. So, at the same time, we provide a framework which we hope will be of benefit - provide add-on value - to the way that money is being spent. So we look very carefully at these sorts of issues of benefits to you as scientists for working in a project like that (refer Overhead 4).

Equally well on the reverse side, of course, there are some obligations. We certainly expect reports to be written and results be made available. It gives you some idea of how that interaction should be working.

The project is structured in the typical IGBP manner. That is to say, we have identified a number of foci:

within those foci lie activities and tasks; and then, to complement those, we have a number of framework activities.

In this particular case we also have the support work of the core project office. They are also looking at what we call core research, which is identified as key areas of research that we do not expect necessarily to be done through the national programs and for which we have to provide additional sources of money.

Now, it looks to me at this stage as though that work of the core area will be significant in this project. I suspect that there are quite a few aspects of it that we cannot depend on being done through some amalgamation of national or even regional efforts. The sorts of approaches we are looking at there are to go to the Global Environmental Facility to look at the funding of some of these core projects.

One of the key regions in this process is South-East Asia. This is clearly a region of great change; it is a region of very important fluxes between land and ocean; it is a region of great human interest. Within South-East Asia of course we would include the northern Australian region and we are certainly looking for significant new activities in that region, with funding generated by the core project office.

I just want to touch on a number of issues that relate to the way this scientific plan is put together. I want to stress absolutely, this is not intended to be a total umbrella for coastal-zone research; that would be absolutely ridiculous. What we have tried to do is to select particular themes that we think important at some large scale within the Earth system and try to encourage work on these. Now some of these will be very familiar to you; others perhaps will not be so familiar to you. That is the sort of approach we are taking.

In doing that we have to draw up, very carefully, linkages. We know there are all sorts of international activities that have gone on in the past, or ongoing now and relate to this. So we have put a considerable amount of effort into defining these: speaking to the people concerned, and trying to define a niche within this international framework for coastal-zone research. This stems not only from the national research program, but from IGBP itself. This involves linkages between the IGBP projects, and I do not want to dwell on those. Just a couple of those that are important are of course JGOFS, which we will hear about from John Parslow and then within the framework activities of IGBP the Data Information Systems and then the START - this is the regional research training centre scheme - and one of the START centres is again in South-East Asia. So we are looking very carefully at linkages with START in South-East Asia.

Beyond that lie of course a number of other activities within organisations like the IOC, UNEP, UNESCO and so on. One of those is the Global Ocean Observing System and we are going to hear about that later today. We have had contacts both with IGOSS and with JGOFS, and we are certainly looking to some sort of linkage there with the coastal elements of GOOS. Those sorts of linkages are now in place.