Ecosystem-based management (EBM) strategies require a comprehensive approach to incorporate land, energy, and natural resource use and allocation involving species management, natural commodities, and humans as components, incorporating data analysis of various interactions over time and space (Arkema et al. 2006, Hutchison 2011). This may be directed at the maintenance or enhancement of the entire riverine ecosystem, including its various aquatic and riparian biota and components, from source to sea (Tharme, R.E. 2003). Implementing EBM strategies necessitates knowledge of multiple disciplines and large data sets and often requires tools that use the best-available science (Curtice et al. 2012). Tools that incorporate operational processes and systems of an organization, such as EBM strategies are called Decision-Support Tools (DSTs). A decision support tool (DST) traditionally assimilates operations processing systems while functioning at the highest level of information systems to aid decision makers in the decision making process and support the transference of knowledge to all levels of the system (Sprague and Watson 1986). The objective of a DST is to improve the functionality of people in an organization. A review of structural components of decision support tools can provide valuable information for applying the knowledge gained towards the creation of a web-based decision support tools used to inform managers of issues regarding freshwater inflows in estuarine systems.
A DST traditionally assimilates operations processing systems while functioning at the highest level of information systems to aid in the decision making process and support the transfer of knowledge to all levels of the system (Sprague and Watson 1986). The objective of a DST is to improve the functionality of people in an organization. A review of DST structural components can provide valuable information for applying the knowledge gained towards creation of a web-based DST, used to inform managers of issues regarding freshwater inflows in estuarine systems.
The creation of DSTs is a relatively recent occurrence that allows for integration of large amounts of data. While all are meant for EBM and generally feature concepts and terms within the scope of science, the approaches often vary greatly. For example, the EBM Network features hundreds of Geographic Information System (GIS) tools related to coastal-marine spatial planning and management decision-making. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created a Coastal Services Center website that features GIS analysis tools such as habitat priority planning, manipulative tools such as a Lidar data handler, and data visualization tools such as historical hurricane tracks. Also, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has an informative regulatory tool for environmental flows which features papers on the environmental flows in Texas. The specific tool will depend not only on the needs of the community, but also the stage of the decision process (Klinsky et al. 2010). The below table shows some examples of available EBM tools networks.
|Coastal Services Center||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
|EBM Tools Network||4,000+ Member Network|
|Gulf of Mexico Alliance||Partnership of states: Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, Louisiana|
|Texas Commission on Environmental Equality||Texas Commission on Environmental Quality|
Currently, there is a lack of web-based DSTs for managing freshwater inflows into estuaries. In Texas for example, only five DSTs relating to freshwater inflows were found through a literature review and are shown in the table below. There is a need for new DSTs to provide information on environmental flows to mangers.
Freshwater inflows information available online. The table shows A) Freshwater inflow information resources and B) the associated acronyms.
|TX Environmental Flow Program (SB3)||TCEQ||Provides links to all existing reports regarding freshwater inflows|
|Senate Bill 3 Nueces BBASC||BBACS||Explains SB3 process and provides specific Nueces applications (BBEST and BBASC reports)|
|NERR Science Collaborative||MANERR||Project to address climate change by helping to establish freshwater inflow requirements|
|Freshwater Inflows and Estuaries||TPWD||Case studies of methodologies to estimate changes, impacts, and needs of freshwater inflows|
|Environmental Flows Information System for Texas||CRWR||Data models and database to determine environmental flow needs|
|TCEQ||Texas Commission on Environmental Quality|
|BBASC||Basin and Bay Area Stakeholder Committee|
|MANERR||Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve|
|TPWD||Texas Parks and Wildlife|
|CRWR||Center for Research in Water Resources|