Natural Resources

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The Department of Defense (DoD) conducts its training and testing activities on 30 million acres of land, encompassing a variety of ecosystems. SERDP and ESTCP focus on those ecosystems on which the military depends to conduct its operational, training and testing missions. The overall goal is to develop and demonstrate the science, tools, and techniques needed to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner on installations and training and testing ranges. Areas of investment include the following.

Arid Lands Ecology and Management

Primary focus is on DoD managed lands and waters in the Southwest. Arid regions are slow to recover from disturbance and are especially susceptible to alterations in temperature and precipitation patterns due to climate change. Permanent surface water is scarce and most watercourses are either intermittent or ephemeral. Altered fire regimes and non-native invasive species also are of concern throughout the region. SERDP and ESTCP efforts are providing DoD resource managers with the knowledge and tools needed to manage these lands into the future.

Cold Regions Ecology and Management

DoD manages significant training lands, as well as other important assets, in cold regions across the globe. Resource management in these regions poses unique challenges related to environmental extremes and highly dynamic and rugged landscapes. In particular, permafrost condition and rates of change, especially as these relate to fire and hydrologic cycles, play a significant role in dictating ecosystem dynamics in interior Alaska where DoD training lands are located. In addition, climate change and climate variability pose new challenges for cold region activities and infrastructure, both in interior Alaska and along the coastal margins. To effectively manage natural resources, accomplish its mission, and ensure resilience under climate change, DoD requires a better understanding of the dynamics of cold region ecosystems today and into the future. SERDP and ESTCP projects are investigating the effects of permafrost dynamics on built and natural systems, including wetland hydrology, and fire frequency and intensity effects on boreal forests.

Pacific Island Ecology and Management

The military is a major land manager in Hawaii and on other Pacific islands. Recent development and the native biota’s extreme vulnerability to the impacts of non-native invasive species present significant challenges. DoD must sustain the land base to support military training and testing, while also meeting its stewardship responsibilities. SERDP and ESTCP projects are improving the understanding of the ecology of this region, including the key ecological processes needed to sustain its ecosystems, and providing DoD resource managers with the knowledge and tools needed to manage these island ecosystems into the future.

Coastal and Estuarine Ecology and Management

Numerous military installations are located along coastlines, at times encompassing river outlets and their estuaries, barrier islands, and coastal wetlands. The coastal areas outside an installation’s boundary are often highly developed and the watersheds often are degraded. These coastal areas also are especially vulnerable to climate change impacts. The focus of SERDP and ESTCP efforts is on understanding the ecology of coastal ecosystems and the interactions among the various system components so as to provide DoD resource managers with the knowledge and tools needed to manage these ecosystems into the future. To foster this effort, SERDP has established a platform research site and program, the Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program at Marine Corp Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Living Marine Resources Ecology and Management

Military activities within the marine environment have the potential to affect living marine resources. SERDP and ESTCP projects are developing the scientific understanding of the factors, both natural and anthropogenic, that hinder sustainable concurrent use of marine ecosystems by the military and by marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs, and other marine resources. The goal also is to develop and demonstrate methods and technologies that can assess and minimize the adverse impacts of those factors and improve our basic understanding of the species and ecology of this environment.

Ecological Forestry

SERDP and ESTCP projects are developing the theory, tools, and methods to put into practice the principles of ecological forestry on DoD lands. This approach to forestry perpetuates ecosystem integrity at landscape scales while continuing to provide realistic military training, and other ecosystem services.

Species Ecology and Management

DoD has stewardship responsibility for species that inhabit the 30 million acres it manages. This rich and varied habitat contains more listed species per acre than any other Federal agency. Like other Federal land managers, DoD also must combat the negative impacts of non-native invasive species. The focus of SERDP and ESTCP efforts is on understanding the impacts of military activities and developing and demonstrating tools and methods to manage both listed species as well as species that are at risk to prevent their future listing. Work is also supported to develop the scientific understanding of the ecological characteristics and impacts of non-native invasive species on the natural resources required by DoD to sustain its mission and stewardship requirements, as well as develop and demonstrate methods and technologies that minimize those impacts. The SERDP focus includes tapping into the capacity of emerging theory to help address management needs while also taking a long-term view of potential future conditions to better prepare managers for the future.

Watershed Processes and Management

SERDP and ESTCP projects are developing and demonstrating the science, tools, and techniques for understanding and managing land and water resources within a watershed context. The goal is to sustain the use of military training and testing lands, while minimizing its impact to receiving water bodies. To accomplish this, DoD resource managers require knowledge and tools to plan and manage their activities in ways that limit the degradation of land and surface waters due to erosion, runoff, and siltation. Improved understanding and decision support tools are needed in particular for managing total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). Such tools also are needed to account for off-installation land-use that may harm installation watershed management objectives.

FY 2017 New Start Project Selections

FY 2018 New Start Project Selections for the Environmental Solicitation – SERDP; ESTCP

DoD Instruction 4715.03

DoD Instruction (DoDI) 4715.03:
Natural Resources Conservation Program

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