The objective of this Statement of Need (SON) was to advance scientific understanding of Department of Defense (DoD)-relevant threatened, endangered, and at-risk species (TES) and population response to exposure from multiple stressors. Currently, cumulative risk from exposure to multiple stressors cannot be predicted based on existing scientific theory and data for individuals or their populations. Of particular interest was interdisciplinary research (i.e., terrestrial ecology, non-linear systems, toxicology/epidemiology, stress physiology, population biology, or others) to explore solutions to the problem of predicting how the effects of two or more stressors interact and affect a population, including the relevant theory, data, and measurement systems required for understanding the cumulative effects of exposure to multiple stressors. Examples of DoD-relevant aquatic and amphibian species include, but are not limited to, the Gopher Frog (Lithobates capito), Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata), and Tidewater gobies (Eucyclogobius newberryi). Proposers must provide the rationale for the selected species of focus.
The expected benefit of the proposed work is the development of fundamental knowledge regarding the impact of multiple stressors on DoD relevant aquatic and amphibian species found in fresh and brackish waters. The knowledge derived from this research will ultimately be used for the development of improved and more cost-effective ecosystem management methods, particularly for DoD-relevant TES populations.
Most existing research on interactions between effects of stressors on living systems involves factorial experiments with species or systems in settings where treatments can be replicated and controlled. Factorial experiments are useful for detecting the presence of interactions, but because such systems are usually only exposed to one level of each stressor, they rarely provide sufficient information to predict responses at varying levels of stressors present in nature. Meta-analyses of results from studies of multiple stressors on various species have been conducted, but no general pattern has emerged for predicting how the effects of stressors will interact. Specific studies may find impacts as either non-interactive, synergistic, or antagonistic. Beyond these generalities, the prediction of multiple stressors often assumes stressor effects to be additive and this assumption is often wrong.
Similar problems in a variety of fields have led to promising new approaches. Currently, environmental assessments often observe that when two or more stressors impact the same population or ecosystem, combined stressors can result in either synergistic or antagonistic interactions and little more beyond a general statement is made. The broad scientific consensus is that adding impacts is not appropriate since cumulative effects are not consistently observed to be linearly cumulative. In the absence of alternative approaches, most environmental assessments do not attempt to quantify cumulative effects, but rather simply point out inchoate concerns about synergistic effects. Those that do attempt to make predictions to guide management actions typically rely on the predicted effects of individual stressors in spite of the consensus that such reliance is usually wrong. A similar problem also holds for estimating the effect of multiple doses of the same stressor. The current state of knowledge then is that cumulative risk from exposure to multiple stressors cannot be predicted based on existing scientific theory and data for individuals or their populations.
The cost and time to meet the requirements of this SON were at the discretion of the proposer. The proposals had to describe a complete research effort. It is anticipated that the scope of this statement of need is such that a multi-disciplinary team will be required to execute a successful effort. Nonetheless, single investigator efforts may compete successfully. The proposer should have incorporated the appropriate time, schedule, and cost requirements to accomplish the scope of work proposed. Preference was given to proposals that best addressed and integrated the research objectives.
Standard Proposals: These proposals describe a complete research effort. The proposer should incorporate the appropriate time, schedule, and cost requirements to accomplish the scope of work proposed. SERDP projects normally run from two to four years in length and vary considerably in cost consistent with the scope of the effort but must not exceed $900,000 per year. Preference will be given to proposals that efficiently address and integrate specific research objectives. Project budgets vary but must remain consistent with the scope of the effort.
Limited Scope Proposals: Proposers with innovative approaches to the SON that entail high technical risk or have minimal supporting data may submit a Limited Scope Proposal for an amount not to exceed $125,000 per year for a period not to exceed two years. Such proposals may be eligible for follow-on funding if they result in a successful initial project. The objective of these proposals should be to acquire the data necessary to demonstrate proof-of-concept or reduction of risk that will lead to development of a future Standard Proposal. Proposers should submit Limited Scope Proposals in accordance with the SERDP Core Solicitation instructions and deadlines.