United States
     Environmental Protection
What is the  State  of  the
Environment  in the  Mid-Atlantic
          Healthy and Sustainable?
                No-Not Yet!
      The state of the environment in the
 Mid-Atlantic region is improving; it just hasn't
 :   reached a healthy and sustainable state!

               Wait a minute!
       What kind of double talk is this?
   State of the environment - Improving? Yes!
                 Results from physical and chemical monitoring indicate that
                 the state of the environment in the Mid-Atlantic has
                 improved: municipal and industrial discharge water quality
                 has improved; best management practices  are being
                 implemented to control runoff; and wetlands are being
                 restored.  But, these monitoring methods are not adequate
                 to identify when  the goal of a healthy and sustainable
                 environment for humans and other living organisms has
                 been reached. Sustainable is defined as a method of
                 harvesting  or using  a
                 resource so that the
                 resource is not depleted
                 or permanently damaged.
Over the past 10 years, a new way of monitoring has been taking place in the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment (MAIA).
Instead of just measuring physical and chemical indicators in hand-picked locations
in forests, streams and estuaries, the condition of living organisms arid physical and
chemical indicators has been measured in a way that can be related to the condition
of the  environment for the entire region. In addition, new approaches have been
developed for using and evaluating satellite pictures to assess environmental condition.
                                                                      MAIA Region Map
                Seven of the lessons learned over the past 10 years from these new ways of monitoring are:
                   Condition of Estuarine
                        Benthic Communities
                         10  20   30   40   50
          Impacted Benthic
                                  Biological organisms—fish, birds,
                                  insects,  trees—are stressed
                                  throughout the region. Estuarine
                                  bottom organisms,  stream fishes,
                                  and bird communities all show signs
                                  of being  stressed (Figure 1). It
                                  doesn't matter if we look at the
                                  region as a whole, on a watershed
                                  by watershed basis, or look at
                                  individual states, the condition is the
                                  same—biological organisms are
 Figure 1. Over 20% of the Mid-Atlantic estuarine area has be.njhic communities which are
 iinpacted (EPA/600/R-98/147, November 1998).

      Birds, ecological condition, and land
      use  and land cover are all linked
      (Figure 2). The types of birds found in
      an area indicate the ecological condition
      of that area.  Bird communities and
      ecological condition are also linked to
      land cover. As the land cover of an area
      changes, so do the types of  birds
      in that area.      	
                                                        Figure 2. Bird community index scores for the Mid-Atlantic Highlands
                                                        indicate that over 50% of the area is ranked in fair to poor condition
                                                        (EPA/620/R-00/003, June 2000).
      Living organisms integrate chemical,
      physical habitat, pathogenic and other
      effects around them and  provide a
      cumulative or longer-term record of
      what has been  going on in the
      environment.    Chemical  spills,
      stormwater discharges of pollutants, or
      other short-term events can be missed
      if only chemical or physical indicators
      are measured. Living organisms provide
      a more complete picture of the condition
      of the  place  in  which they live.
                                                          Chemical and physical indicators
                                                          do not provide a complete picture
                                                          of environmental condition, which is
                                                          the flip-side of Lesson 3. Yet, many
                                                          monitoring programs only measure
                                                          chemical and physical indicators. We
                                                          need to invest more in measuring
                                                          biological indicators. We need a better,
                                                          more complete picture.
                            Habitat loss and degradation is a major problem throughout the Mid-Atlantic
                            region. In the eastern half of the region, urban sprawl is contributing to this loss
                                                                   and degradation  (Figure 3). In  thfe
                                                                   western  half of the region, resource
                                                                   extraction—from timber harvesting to
                                                                   mining—'contributes to this loss and
                                                                   degradation. Forest fragmentation—
                                                                   cutting swaths and patches out of the
                                                                   forest—contributes   to   habitat
Imp§rvl9u§  Qovtr Indlsafss           Htilth
Figure 3. Urban sprawl leads to more area that is impervious to rainfall and increases runoff of
pollutants. When the impervious cover is over 2%, brook trout disappear from streams, when it is
above 15%, stream health is never rated good, and when impervious cover is over 25%, only a few
species can live in the stream (EPA/903/R-99/023, December 1999).

Forest fragmentation is widespread
throughout  the region (Figure 4). The
forests in the Mid-Atlantic region are a world-
renowned resource. There is only one other
place in the world that  has as much
continuous mid-latitude forest. The  Mid-
Atlantic forest is rapidly being reduced from
large continuous stands to smaller,  non-
contiguous stands that do  not provide
sufficient habitat for many species.  These
species, from migratory birds to black bears,
require  large  blocks  of  continuous
forest to sustain their populations.
Non-native and exotic species  have
invaded the Mid-Atlantic region and are
a major problem. These species range from
pathogens to plants to fish to birds and can
out-compete native species  because their
natural enemies are not present. Combining
habitat loss with the introduction of non-
native species results in the loss—in  many
cases permanent—of native  species.
               Fragmentation Index
      % Watershed Area
      m < 7.8

      _  7.8 -11.2

      D  11.2 -13.8

         13.8 - 21,4

, Figure 4. An ujdex of forest fragmentation shows, the greatest fragmentation
(red) occurs nfareas around major metropolitan areas and areas undergoing
rapid growth There are still areas where forest fragmentation is low (green)
(EPA/600/R-97/13tTNovember 1997)
          Ranking of Stressors
         _. __Qt Mid-Atlantic ^Highland Streams^
         Acidic Imposition
       Tissue Cdfitaminalfon
  There are many factors that contribute to
  the stress observed in living organisms.
  It's difficult to identify any one thing—
  stressors are interrelated and overlapping.
  For example, some streams are clearly
  dominated by a single stressor, but most
  suffer from the cumulative,  combined
  effects of multiple stressors.
 Figure 5. Habitat degradation—both from sedimentation in the stream .bed
 (mstream) and erosion along its banks (riparian)—is the stressor that has
 damaged the most miles of streams in .the, Mid-Atlantic Highlands.
 Introduced species (gray bar above) are found in over 30% of the stream
ijniles .and include brown and rainbow trout, introduced by the states as
 game/sport fish (EPA/903/R-OQ/013, August 2000);
 *  The Mid-Atlantic Highlands study region includes the area from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the east to the Ohio River
 In the west and from the Catskill Mountains in the north to the Virginia—North Carolina/Tennessee border in the south.


First, environmental managers can review existing environmental management programs.  Do they protect all
living organisms and provide a sustainable environment? If there is compliance with environmental permits,
but living organisms are stressed, something additional may be needed.
Environmental managers need to rank the stressors.  Cause-effect relationships between the factors causing
stresses and the biological/ecological endpoints that  relate to society's needs and desires (e.g., food to eat,
housing, clean water, streams with fish, birds and animals to watch, large continuous forested watersheds)
must be determined. Then, human needs must be balanced with the stressors that cause the highest ecological
    Environmental  managers  need  to  manage  the
    environment in a more integrated way.  Managing on a
    pollutant-by-pollutant, or media-by-media (e.g., water, air,
    solid waste) basis is  not enough anymore.  Flexible,
    integrated environmental management programs, similar
    to those in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Figure 6), also
    need to be implemented in the Highlands and throughout
    the Region.

    Finally, environmental managers need to present information
    in a way that is clear and understandable to the public and
    decision makers. Sound, understandable  information can
    contribute to decisions on the effects of urban sprawl, where
    to  put transportation corridors, and how to protect large,
    continuous stands of forests from being cut into small
    patches.  Clearly, everyone-government at all levels, civic
    organizations, schools,  the private sector, and individuals-
    needs to be involved in these solutions if a better place for
    our children to live is to be the result.
                                                                          ,Community Engagement, g
                                                           Figure 6. Integrated environmental management has been
                                                           implemented by the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program and its federal,
                                                           state, and local partners through "Chesapeake 2000."
                   EPA's goal is to manage for a healthy and sustainable environment for humans
                   and other living organisms.  The Lessons Learned through the EPA's Mid-Atlantic
                   Integrated Assessment initiative will help move us toward that goal.  The facts and
                   conclusions presented above are based on the peer reviewed publications cited and
                   the management  recommendations  were  developed  by  EPA Region
  The Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment (MAIA) is an
  interagency, multi-disciplinary research, monitoring and
  assessment program to develop high-quality scientific
  information on the region's natural resources: current
  condition, stressors, trends, and vulnerabilities.  MAIA
  results and information are intended to satisfy a broad
  group of  stakeholders' needs,  convey important
  information relevant to their assessment questions and
  issues, and be useful in making management decisions.
               Region 3, Philadelphia, PA 19103
               December 2001
                                                              For More Information, Please Contact
                                                                        Patricia Bradley
                                                                        Ph: 410.305.2744
                                                               U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                                                                  Environmental Science Center
                                                                   Ft. Meade, MD 20755-5350
                                                            visit the MAIA web site at www.epa.gov/maia
                                                                    Printed on chlorine free 100% recycled paper with
                                                                    100% post-consumer fiber using vegetable-based ink.