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Welcome to the DCERP public Web site

Background

Critical military training and testing on lands along the nation’s coastal and estuarine shorelines are increasingly placed at risk because of development pressures in surrounding areas, impairments due to other anthropogenic disturbances, and increasing requirements for compliance with environmental regulations. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has established ecosystem-based management as the preferred approach for military lands (Goodman, 1996). To expand its commitment to improving military readiness while demonstrating the science behind this approach, the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) made a commitment of a minimum of 10 years to fund research and monitoring projects that support the sustainability of military training and testing in ecologically and economically important ecosystems.

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (North Carolina)

To accomplish this goal, and in particular for coastal environments, SERDP launched the Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program (DCERP) at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (MCBCL) in North Carolina in 2006. As a U.S. Marine Corps installation, MCBCL has a single and exclusive mission: military preparedness. MCBCL provides an ideal platform for DCERP because it integrates coastal barrier, aquatic/estuarine, coastal wetland, and terrestrial ecosystems, all within the boundaries of DoD properties.

MCBCL site map
Site map of MCBCL in Onslow County, NC.

DCERP1 and DCERP2

DCERP was implemented in two contract periods. The first cycle of DCERP, referred to as DCERP1, was conducted from July 2006 through January 2013 and focused on understanding coastal and estuarine ecosystem composition, structure, and function within the context of a military training environment. The second cycle of DCERP, referred to as DCERP2, is being conducted February 2013 through October 2017. DCERP2 was developed to understand how coastal and estuarine ecosystems respond to climate change and to assess the carbon cycles in these ecosystems.

Program Organization

RTI International (RTI), headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, was selected to lead both DCERP1 and DCERP2. In this capacity, RTI has assembled a diverse team of discipline experts with many years of experience working together on coastal/estuarine ecosystem projects to conduct research and monitoring efforts. DCERP is a collaborative effort between the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC), MCBCL, and the RTI Team. SERDP is an environmental research and development program that is planned and carried out by DoD in full partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The SERDP Resource Conservation and Climate Change (RCCC) Program Manager, Dr. John Hall, and the DCERP On-site Coordinator, Dr. Susan Cohen, provide technical oversight and management of the program.

Overarching Strategy

DCERP is based on integrated research and monitoring activities that are structured to use measurements and develop conceptual and mechanistic models and tools that inform science-based adaptive management at MCBCL and that can be easily transferred to other DoD installations. The RTI DCERP Team developed an overarching conceptual models and ecosystem-specific conceptual models that illustrate the key biological processes (e.g., primary production), chemical processes (e.g., nutrient cycling), and physical processes (e.g., hydrodynamics, sedimentation) that are the driving forces controlling of the function of the ecosystem. These models were used to create monitoring and research plans. The monitoring program was designed to document trends, but to be sufficiently adaptive to capture extremes and ecosystem threshold events and to support research projects by satisfying fundamental data needs. Together, these research and monitoring activities represent an integrated continuum of ecosystem processes. Ultimately, the RTI Team will use results from the monitoring and research efforts to identify ecosystem indicators and develop associated threshold values, tools, or design models that address installation management needs.

Data Management

Environmental data collected throughout the duration of the program are critical to research and modeling activities and to the development of decision-support management tools. During DCERP1, the RTI DCERP Team developed the Data and Information Management System (DIMS) and procedures to manage the resulting data and to enable efficient, secure, and accurate input, analysis, integration, display, and sharing of the data. Web-based interfaces allow the RTI DCERP Team, MCBCL staff, and other users to access the DIMS which contains Monitoring and Research Data Information System (MARDIS) for structured data, the Document Database for reports and publications, and Map Gallery for geospatial data and information. DCERP2 is using the same DIMS and will add to the 37 data sets and more than 23 million records collected in DCERP1.

DCERP1

The Program's primary goal was to enhance and sustain the military mission by developing an understanding of coastal and estuarine ecosystem composition, structure, and function within the context of a military training environment.

DCERP1 Objectives

The RTI DCERP1 Team designed an integrative monitoring, modeling, and research strategy for MCBCL that was consistent with guidance on ecosystem-based management from the Ecological Society of America and recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, including principles of adaptive management. Specific DCERP1 objectives included the following: (1) develop appropriate conceptual and mechanistic ecological models to guide research, monitoring, and adaptive management feedback loops; (2) identify significant ecosystem stressors, their sources (on and off Camp Lejeune), and their level of impact on Camp Lejeune's ecological systems; and (3) incorporate stressor and other ecological indicator information into the models, with an aim to develop more effective management guidelines for sustainable ecosystems.

Conceptual Model Development

To facilitate the understanding of the ecosystem state and dynamics of the MCBCL region, the RTI DCERP1 Team developed an overarching conceptual model for the MCBCL region. This model included the terrestrial lands of MCBCL, the New River Estuary (NRE), associated coastal wetlands, and the coastal barrier along Onslow Bay, as well as the overarching influence of atmospheric conditions.

DCERP1 conceptual model
Overarching conceptual model for DCERP1 at MCBCL.

DCERP1 Team

RTI International, headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, led the DCERP1 research and monitoring effort and assembled a diverse team of discipline experts with many years of experience working together on coastal/estuarine ecosystem projects.

The RTI DCERP1 Team included the Principal Investigator, other environmental scientists from RTI, and researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, North Carolina State University, University of Connecticut, Duke University, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Virginia Tech, University of South Carolina, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, Beaufort, NC), U. S. Geological Survey (Raleigh, NC, office), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Field Reserch Facility; Duck, NC), Atmospheric Research and Analysis, Inc., and Porter Scientific, Incorporated.

The RTI DCERP1 Team was organized into six module teams based on the ecosystem-based management objective for the program. Each module team falls under the direction of a Module Team Leader and Co-leader. These module teams conducted monitoring and research activities for DCERP1's five ecosystem modules (Aquatic/Estuarine Module, Coastal Barrier Module, Coastal Wetlands Module, Terrestrial Module, and Atmospheric Module) and Data Management Module.

Process/Technology Description

The planning period of DCERP began in November 2006 and was successfully completed in June 2007 with the development of a Strategic Plan, Baseline Monitoring Plan and Research Plan, all of which served as the foundation for DCERP1 activities at MCBCL. To facilitate better understanding of ecosystem state and dynamics, Camp Lejeune and its surrounding environment were subdivided into five distinct, but interdependent ecosystem modules: aquatic-estuarine, coastal barrier, coastal wetland, terrestrial, and atmospheric. These modules were linked by nesting each within a common regional land-air-seascape setting. Cross-cutting research projects, including geospatial-based ecosystem modeling and biogeochemical synthesis analysis, were qualitatively capturing transport mechanisms via air and water pathways. The baseline monitoring plan and research plan were designed with an integrative and hierarchical approach that transcends air-land-water boundaries to study the effects of changes across ecosystems. These plans incorporated Camp Lejeune's ongoing research and monitoring projects, and illuminated underlying ecosystem processes, identified stressor-specific indicators, and specified critical system process thresholds that could potentially threaten sustainability.

The implementation of DCERP1 began in July 2007 and resulted in the establishment of a long-term ecosystem monitoring system comprised of more than 350 monitoring and research sites and implementation of 13 research projects within five ecosystem modules. In addition, the Data Management Module developed the Monitoring and Research Data Information System (MARDIS) to archive all of the DCERP1 data and maintained websites to facilitate the rapid exchange of information among the various DCERP1 partners, MCBCL staff, and the public. Research and monitoring activities during DCERP1were conducted until January 2013. DCERP1 accomplishments were summarized in the Final Research and Monitoring Reports (available under Public Documents).

DCERP1 Regional Coordination Committee

The Regional Coordinating Committee (RCC) was established by SERDP and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to foster relationships among conservation organizations active in the region surrounding the Base as well as to provide the means for outreach to the regional community. Members of the RCC are local and regional stakeholders including federal, state, and local regulators. The RCC convenes on an annual basis to inform its members of DCERP activities that have occurred or will be occurring that are of interest to the RCC members as well as inform the DCERP team about research or monitoring activities in their respective local or regional organizations that would be helpful to the DCERP program. This interaction between the RCC and DCERP team members presents an opportunity for data sharing and collaboration. View the DCERP briefs to the RCC, located on the Public Documents page.

Members of the RCC

  • Dean Carpenter - Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program; Raleigh, NC
  • Pat Donovan-Potts - New River Roundtable; Jacksonville, NC
  • Michelle Duvall – North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries; Morehead City, NC
  • John Fear - North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve; Beaufort, NC
  • Patti Fowler – North Carolina Division of Environmental Health; Morehead City, NC
  • John Hammond - US Fish and Wildlife Service; Raleigh, NC
  • Jon Harrison – Onslow County Health Department, Environmental Health Division; Jacksonville, NC
  • Tommy Hughes - North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission; New Bern, NC
  • Hervey McIver - The Nature Conservancy; Durham, NC
  • Carmen Lombardo - Environmental Affairs Department; Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, NC
  • Todd Miller- North Carolina Coastal Federation; Newport, NC
  • Scott Pohlman - North Carolina Natural Heritage Program; Raleigh, NC
  • Diana Rashash - North Carolina Cooperative Extension; Jacksonville, NC
  • Linda Rimer – US Environmental Protection Agency; Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Jay Sauber – North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Raleigh, NC
  • Lee Thornhill -USDA Forest Service, Croatan District; New Bern, NC

Benefits

DCERP1 fostered a greater understanding of Camp Lejeune's biologically diverse coastal barrier island, estuarine, marsh, and terrestrial ecosystems and their interactions with military training activities. This understanding aided in the long-term management and sustainability of these ecosystems, which enhanced and maintained the military mission of training and readiness. Because of the adaptive nature of DCERP1, data from this program's research and monitoring efforts increased the ability of MCBCL resource managers to perform assessments and implement appropriate management responses to potential environmental impacts arising from military activities or natural disturbance events.

DCERP2

The Program's primary goal is to enhance and sustain the military mission by developing an understanding of coastal and estuarine ecosystem composition, structure, and function within the context of a military training environment. Since DCERP1 was implemented, the potential impacts of climate change on military training have been identified as a growing challenge to our nation’s military readiness. DoD facilities in coastal/estuarine areas are at additional risk from climate change, including changes in sea level and extreme weather (i.e., severe droughts, heavy rainfall events, warming temperatures, and increased magnitude of storms). In addition, installation managers need to understand the trade-offs between carbon management and other adaptive management decisions to reach potential future installation carbon goals in a changed climate. To balance military training needs and sustainable natural resource management, installation managers need easy-to-use decision-support tools, models, and other products to assist them in making often complex management decisions.

DCERP2 Objectives

The specific objectives of DCERP2 include the following:

  1. Determine how ecosystem processes (within military training environments) respond to climate change to understand the resiliency and adaptive capacity of these ecosystems
  2. Build on DCERP1 findings to identify additional thresholds that can serve as indicators of tipping point conditions that could threaten sustainability of the military training mission
  3. Assess opportunities for adaptive management of estuarine, coastal, and terrestrial ecosystems to enhance carbon storage at MCBCL and other installations in similar coastal settings
  4. Convey results of scientific studies to managers and decision makers by developing clearly written products and easy-to-use decision-support tools and models hosted on a readily accessible Web-based platform.

Conceptual Model Development

To facilitate the understanding of the ecosystem state and dynamics of the MCBCL region, the RTI DCERP2 Team developed an overarching conceptual model for the MCBCL region. This model includes the terrestrial lands of MCBCL, the New River Estuary (NRE), associated coastal wetlands, and the coastal barrier along Onslow Bay, as well as the overarching influence of climatic conditions. This overarching conceptual model highlights the interconnections among the various ecosystem modules in examining processes that are affected by climate change and that drive carbon cycling.

DCERP2 conceptual model
Overarching conceptual model for DCERP2 at MCBCL.

DCERP2 Team

RTI International, headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is leading the DCERP2 research and monitoring effort and has assembled a diverse team of discipline experts with many years of experience working together on coastal/estuarine ecosystem projects.

The RTI DCERP2 Team includes the Principal Investigator, other environmental scientists from RTI, and researchers from Duke University, North Carolina State University, University of Connecticut, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Virginia Tech, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, Beaufort, NC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Field Research Facility; Duck, NC and Construction and Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, IL), Aquatic Analysis and Consulting, LLC; Geodynamics, LLC; and Seahorse Coastal Consulting.

The RTI DCERP2 Team remains organized around four interconnected ecosystem modules established in DCERP1 (Aquatic/Estuarine, Coastal Barrier, Coastal Wetlands, and Terrestrial). Because climate change has a central role on ecosystem function and services, a fifth cross-cutting Climate Change (CC) Module links the ecosystem modules to a central suite of local and regional-scale climate forcings. Finally, data and product outcomes from all of our integrated research and monitoring efforts are managed within the new Translating Science into Practice (TSP) Module, which incorporates many existing elements of the DCERP1 Data Management Module.

DCERP2 Themes

SERDP identified three major themes to be addressed in DCERP2: climate change, the carbon cycle, and translating science into practice. These three themes span the four ecosystem modules and 12 research projects of DCERP2. DoD lands in the United States and abroad include a large number of installations in coastal settings that are most vulnerable to climate change effects (e.g., rising sea level, increased temperatures, extended periods of drought or flood conditions, extreme storm events [i.e., hurricanes, cyclones, Nor’easters]). To better manage DoD lands and their infrastructure and natural assets, it is imperative that installation managers have accurate research findings to inform their management decision and prepare for future contingencies necessitated by changing climates. In addition, the carbon cycle is inextricably linked to climate change and its association with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane) generated from the use of fossil fuels. DoD is a major consumer of fossil fuels used for military training and actual military engagements across the globe; therefore, DoD is concerned about reducing its carbon footprint through the use of alternative energy sources and conservation. Findings that result from these two thematic areas of research need to be communicated broadly not only to the scientific community, but also to installation managers to help them understand and assess potential vulnerabilities of coastal installations and prepare contingencies to ensure sustainability of the military mission under future changed climate conditions.

Process/Technology Description

DCERP2 builds on the previous 5 years of research at MCBCL (i.e., DCERP1) and adapts the program to the new priorities of climate change, carbon cycling, and translating science into practice. DCERP2 is based on integrated research and monitoring activities that flow directly from the process that was successfully used and implemented in DCERP1. The program is structured to use measurements and develop conceptual and mechanistic models and tools that inform science-based adaptive management at MCBCL and that can be easily transferred to other DoD installations. The monitoring program is designed to document baseline conditions, assess trends and evaluate variability of key parameters, but also to be sufficiently adaptive to capture extremes and ecosystem threshold events and to support the research by satisfying fundamental data needs. Together, these research and monitoring activities represent an integrated continuum of ecosystem response to changing climate, with respect to carbon cycling, nutrient utilization, sediment loading, and ecosystem services and sustainability.

DCERP2 Regional Coordinating Committee

The Regional Coordinating Committee (RCC) was established by SERDP and MCBCL to foster relationships among conservation organizations active in the region surrounding the installation as well as to provide the means for outreach to the regional community. Members of the RCC are local and regional stakeholders including federal, state, and local regulators. The RCC convenes on an annual basis to inform its members of DCERP activities that have occurred or will be occurring that are of interest to the RCC members as well as inform the DCERP team about research or monitoring activities in their respective local or regional organizations that would be helpful to the DCERP program. This interaction between the RCC and DCERP team members presents an opportunity for data sharing and collaboration.

Members of the RCC for DCERP2

  • Dean Carpenter - Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program; Raleigh, NC
  • Pat Donovan-Potts - New River Roundtable; Jacksonville, NC
  • Anne Deaton – North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries; Wilmington, NC
  • John Fear - North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve; Beaufort, NC
  • Patti Fowler – North Carolina Division of Environmental Health; Morehead City, NC
  • John Hammond - US Fish and Wildlife Service; Raleigh, NC
  • Tommy Hughes - North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission; New Bern, NC
  • Hervey McIver - The Nature Conservancy; Durham, NC
  • Carmen Lombardo - Environmental Affairs Department; Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, NC
  • Rachelle Powell – Croatan and Uwharrie National Forests; New Bern, NC
  • Diana Rashash - North Carolina Cooperative Extension; Jacksonville, NC
  • Linda Rimer – US Environmental Protection Agency; Research Triangle Park, NC
  • Jay Sauber – North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Raleigh, NC
  • Vacant – USDA Forest Service, Croatan Ranger District; New Bern, NC
  • Lexia Weaver - North Carolina Coastal Federation; Newport, NC

Benefits

The successful implementation of DCERP2 will foster a greater understanding of aquatic/estuarine, coastal wetlands, coastal barrier, and terrestrial ecosystems of MCBCL and of the interactions of these systems within a military training environment. This understanding will aid in the long-term management and sustainability of coastal ecosystems, which will enhance and maintain DoD’s military training mission of training and readiness. Information and data resulting from the DCERP2 research and monitoring efforts will increase the ability of natural resources managers at MCBCL and other coastal installation to perform assessments and implement appropriate management responses to potential environmental impacts arising from military land-use activities, other anthropogenic activities, or natural disturbance events.

SERDP Navy Facilities Engineering Service Center United States Marine Corps RTI International