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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program


Assessing the Consequences of Global Change for Aquatic Ecosystems: Climate, Land Use, and UV Radiation

Opening Date: January 31, 2001
Closing Date: May 7, 2001

Background and Purpose
Additional Considerations
Data Policy
Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
Sorting Code

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EPA’s Global Change Research Program is assessing the potential consequences of global changes for human health, ecosystems, and social well-being in the United States.  Climate change and variability, changes in land-use patterns, and changes in UV radiation are occurring on a global scale and the complex interplay of natural processes and human activities foster wide-ranging change.  Considering human activities and their interactions with other natural stressors is critical for the assessment of potential consequences of climate change.  Assessments that neglect the “human dimensions” and the consideration of multiple stressors are incomplete and may lead resource managers and other decision makers to incorrect conclusions about appropriate resource and adaptation policies.

This Request for Applications (RFA) solicits applications for research that will support assessments of the consequences of global change for aquatic ecosystems and water quality.  Proposals to study the emissions of greenhouse gases, the effects of greenhouse gases on climate, or the effects of global change on forested, agricultural or grassland ecosystems will not be considered.  Terrestrial systems may be considered in terms of how they affect aquatic ecosystems, but effects on crop productivity, carbon sequestration and other endpoints related to the quality of terrestrial ecosystems are not within the scope of this RFA.  Finally, we are interested in proposals that address integrative effects on aquatic ecosystems and water quality, thereby bringing together both human dimensions models and natural sciences models, as illustrated in Figure 1.  For example, a proposal that focused on the process of biogeochemical cycling would not be considered, while a project that considered biogeochemical cycling as a component of consequences to aquatic ecosystems and/or water quality would be appropriate.

The STAR grants program focuses on two principal areas of global change research: 1) science to support assessments of consequences; and 2) human dimensions research.  Extramural grants help EPA's Global Change Research Program attain its long-term objectives as described in its Strategic Plan and encourage scientific work supporting global change assessments.  This RFA represents the second step in a multi-year plan to support assessments of global change.  The first RFA solicited proposals to develop and apply models that integrate human dimensions with natural processes associated with natural and human-induced climate change and variability.  That RFA can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/archive/grants/00/00humanrfa.html.  Information on grant recipients will be available at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/grants/.  The multi-year plan fosters the development of models and related experimental research that capture the interaction of human behavior with natural (nonhuman) responses to global  change (see Figure 1). We recognize that the development of such models and experimental research will require researchers representing a variety of disciplines from the natural and social sciences to work together. As such, we consider the development of interdisciplinary communities of investigators an important collateral benefit of this multi-year RFA process.

Figure 1


Proposals must address the effects of climate change and variability and land use change and/or UV radiation on aquatic ecosystems (e.g., effects on water quality, aquatic organisms, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services).

Successful proposals will:

(a) Articulate the research questions that the proposal would address.

(b) Describe the hypothesis to be tested.

(c) Describe the experimental design proposed for the research, including

Identification of existing models that would be used or adapted.  [The term “model” is meant to be interpreted broadly.  Models could be deterministic based on thermodynamic principles or empirically-based and could be descriptive, causal, or process-based.]

Description of how existing model(s) would be coupled, linked, or integrated.

A rationale for the selection of models and model integration methods, preferably including citations and critical reviews.

Identification of data that would be used.

(d) Describe the nature of the expected results.

(e) Explain how the proposed research would support assessments of the impacts of the human dimensions of global change on aquatic ecosystems and water quality, and how the models could be applied in different situations.


Priority Research Areas: Aquatic Ecosystems and Water Quality.  Proposals could address the following types of questions:

How might climatic changes, in combination with UV radiation and/or changing land-use patterns, affect water quality, aquatic biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning?

How might changes in climate and land use affect the physical characteristics (e.g. stratification) of coastal and freshwater ecosystems?  How then might the altered physical characteristics affect floral and faunal communities?  (Investigators might consider changes in UV exposure, temperature and ice-free season, mixing dynamics, and chemical characteristics.)

How might changes in precipitation and temperature interact with current and future land-use choices, such as draining of wetlands, paving of surfaces, and channeling of streams and rivers, to affect water quality and UV exposure?

Could climatic and land-use changes result in changes in flooding, drought, base stream flow, and water quality, with implications for human health, social well-being, and aquatic ecosystems?  Could watershed protection measures such as stream corridor restoration and wetland protection protect against negative impacts? How would these and other management options affect stream-flow, stream temperature, sediments loads, and other non-point source pollutants?

How might land-use choices increase or decrease vulnerability of aquatic ecosystems to extreme weather events?

How might interactive effects of climatic, UV, and land use changes affect water quality and ecosystem functioning through changes in biogeochemical cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur?

As one example, researchers might propose to develop an integrated model to answer the question, “What are the effects on water quality and aquatic ecosystems of warmer temperatures and changing precipitation, taking into account changes in the riparian zone and exposure to UV radiation?”  To address this question, researchers might consider:
Conducting a case study in an area where extensive riparian changes are occurring (and/or are likely to occur) due to changes in urban or agricultural areas.

Examining the influence of land use and climate variability and change on stream temperatures using scenarios developed from General Circulations Models of climate change and from models of potential future land use.
Modeling the effects of shade from riparian trees and from UV-absorbing matter (e.g., from decaying vegetation) on stream temperature and exposure to UV radiation.

Evaluating the effects of riparian vegetation on non-point source loads of sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants.

Using ecological models to interpret the implications of changes in stream temperature, stream flow, UV exposure, and nitrogen cycling for fish and other aquatic organisms.

As another example, researchers might investigate the question, “How could changes in climate, land use, and UV radiation interact to affect wetlands?”  This might involve addressing:
How geographic location and wetland type affect response to changes in water balance as they may  result from changes in evapotranspiration and precipitation patterns influenced by land use changes.

Whether changes in climate and land use make wetlands more or less susceptible to invasions by non-indigenous species.

The interactive effects on wetlands of climate change and variability and exposure to UV radiation or land use change.

How global changes (climate, UV, and land use) affect wetland functioning and ecosystem services.

Applicants may wish to take advantage of the sites and/or measurements that are part of  PrimeNet, the EPA/NPS UV monitoring network, in their proposed research. The sites are located in urban areas and in National Parks that are distributed among a wide variety of ecoregions in the United States (see the following Web address: www.epa.gov/uvnet for site locations and characteristics).

Data Policy: The application must include a plan to make available all data (including primary and secondary data) from observations, analyses, or model development under a grant awarded in this program in a format and with documentation such that they can be utilized by others in the scientific community. The data must be made available to the project officer without restriction and be accompanied by comprehensive metadata documentation adequate for specialists and non-specialists alike to be able to understand how and where the data were obtained and to evaluate the quality of the data. The data products and their metadata must be provided to the project officer in a standard exchange format no later than the due date of the grant's final report or the publication of the data product's associated results, whichever comes first.  Applicants who develop databases containing proprietary or restricted information should provide a strategy, not to exceed two pages, to make the data widely available, while protecting privacy or property rights.  These pages are in addition to the 15 pages permitted for the project description.


Up to $5.5 million is expected to be available in fiscal year 2001 for awards in this program. A proposal may request up to $300,000 per year for up to 3 years. Do not exceed these guidelines. Successful applicants are expected to use a portion of these funds to attend an Annual EPA Progress Review meeting.

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program. Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply.

Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator. The principal investigator's institution may provide funds through its grant from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal employees may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program. However, federal employees may interact with grantees so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant.  The principal investigator's institution may also enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere, etc. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal   investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. However, this interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is "incidental" is not reflected in a research proposal and involves no resource commitments.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, email: puzak.jack@epa.gov.


A set of special instructions on how applicants should apply for a NCER grant is found on the NCER Website, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/, Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The necessary forms for submitting an application are also found on this Web site.


The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is 2001-STAR-M1. The deadline for receipt of the application by NCER is May 7, 2001.


The following contact person will respond to inquiries regarding this solicitation and can respond to any technical questions related to your application.

 Bernice L. Smith   202-564-6934

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