NCCOS Competitive Research Program (CRP) and the U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) released proceedings from a 2020 workshop on the socio-economic effects of marine and freshwater (primarily the Great Lakes) harmful algal blooms in the United States. The workshop and resulting recommendations advance NCCOS efforts to expand support for harmful algal bloom (HAB) socio-economic research and more effectively address the needs of decision-makers and stakeholders.
The report documents the proceedings and presents recommendations developed by forty workshop participants, mostly university and federal economists and social scientists from a range of institutions, agencies, and U.S. regions. The workshop was led by WHOI Oceanographer Emeritus Porter Hoagland and NCCOS Monitoring and Event Response (MERHAB) Research Program Manager Marc Suddleson. The recommendations advance both a socio-economic assessment framework and national research agenda. Framework recommendations describe institutional arrangements deemed necessary for successful implementation of research agenda recommendations.
Framework recommendations call for enhancing interagency coordination; improving research communications and coordination among research networks; integrating socioeconomic assessments into HAB forecasts and observing networks; using open-access databases to establish baselines and identify baseline departures; facilitating rapid response socio-economic studies; improving public health outcome reporting and visibility of HAB-related illnesses; fostering the use of local and traditional ecological knowledge to improve HAB responses; engaging affected communities in citizen science and engaging graduate students in HAB socio-economic research.
Research Agenda recommendations include elements necessary for addressing gaps in our understanding of the social and economic effects of HABs. They include a suggested approach for obtaining an improved national estimate of the economic effects of HABs; supporting rapid ethnographic assessments and in depth assessments of social impacts from HABs; defining socioeconomic impact thresholds for triggering more detailed studies of impacts (e.g., in the case of designated HAB events of significance); sponsoring research on the value of scientific research leading to improved understanding of bloom ecology; assessing the value of HAB mitigation (e.g., forecasts) and control approaches and their implementation costs; supporting research to improve HAB risk communication and tracking, and to better understand the incidence, severity, and costs of HAB-related human illnesses.
Implementation of these recommendations will stimulate HAB socio-economic research. The workshop and report are already helping foster increased collaborations among U.S. funding institutions, social scientists and the HAB community that will lead to a better understanding of the socio-economic effects of HABs and provide the tools to increase the effectiveness of approaches (e.g., HAB forecasting) being developed to minimize their effects.