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9.3 Future Research Considerations

The review of the traditional NEBA approach described by the authors in this section led to suggestions of further research which can reduce remaining uncertainties for application of NEBA in the Arctic.  The more generic suggestions compiled from this review are summarized below while recommendations that are important for improving Arctic NEBA are listed separately.

  1. Need for comprehensive data management system.  A good deal of information exists regarding the presence and seasonal distributions of environmental resources in the Arctic, but much of it is located in reports and databases filed with exploration and production environmental impact statements for regulatory purposes. Some information such as indigenous harvests may be proprietary. This information is not easily accessible for oil spill response considerations. The same is true for environmental sensitivity maps and atlases, toxicology data, nearshore topographical mapping, etc.  Many types of information needed to conduct NEBAs could be more easily accessed if a comprehensive data management strategy was developed for the pan-Arctic region Development of a common, easily searchable, web-based information system would aid many environmental and emergency management processes, including NEBA workshops.  Similarly, there is no comprehensive database of emergency response resources for Arctic regions, even though much of that information exists in contingency plans for individual facilities, vessels, or local, state, and federal agencies.

9.3.1 Priority Recommendations for Enhanced NEBA Applications in the Arctic

The following recommendations are considered high priority to ensure an appropriate data management system is developed for NEBA applications under arctic conditions.

  1. Development of an Arctic response consequence analysis tool.   The NEBA framework to be adapted for use under Arctic conditions should integrate available information on VEC populations, environmental compartments, and the relative risks posed by exposure to oil derived from each OSR considered practical.  This approach fosters evaluation of the relative consequences of OSR actions in the Arctic at the ecosystem level and will incorporate metrics based on VEC/EC resiliency and potential for ecosystem recovery. The direct effects of oil introduced into each of the key environmental compartments as a result of each response action should be readily grasped. 
    1. Develop an integration tool based on several semi-quantitative factorial matrices to forecast comparative outcomes from applications of the different OSRs under Arctic conditions [including assimilation of quantitative data on biological processes (toxicity, bioaccumulation, biodegradation, etc.), OSR/oil encounter rates, biological encounter rates (seasonal patterns), identification of sensitive species, habitats, compartments, consideration of resilience and recovery traits, etc.]
  2. Augment integrated models in support of NEBA assessment.  Model the transport and fate of OSR residuals into the atmosphere, surface waters, sub-surface waters, convergence zones, the stranding process on different shoreline types and storage of residuals within these different ECs.  Develop better understanding of the transport of surface oils along ice interfaces under-ice as well as during active periods of formation and breakup of annual and multi-year ice.  The migration of oil during contact with ice controls the exposure factors used in assessing toxicological impacts and affects resource encounter rates during application of OSRs.  Model oil transport and alterations in fate that can occur along ice edges and under ice. This will require good transport and fate models that predict the concentrations of oil in each compartment as a result of a response action.