NSF has released a Dear Colleague Letter to invite synthesis proposals for data resulting from the Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST) program. BEST, initiated in 2007 by the NSF Office of Polar Programs, was designed to develop understanding of the effects of a varying sea-ice cover on the Bering shelf ecosystem, to project the potential changes in response to anticipated climate variations on decadal time scales, and to assess the vulnerability and sustainability of the local communities to such changes.

This program was coordinated with the North Pacific Research Board's Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research program (BSIERP). The BEST-BSIERP collaboration concluded its final year of fieldwork in 2010 (see Integrated Bering Sea Project in Final Year of Field Activities, in this issue of Witness).

The coordinated programs have identified a series of propositions addressable with the collected field data, including:

  1. Physical forcing affects food availability: Climate-induced changes in physical forcing modify the availability and partitioning of food for all trophic levels through bottom-up processes.

  2. Ocean conditions structure trophic relationships: Climate and ocean conditions impact fish reproduction, survival and distribution, the intensity of predator-prey relationships, and the location of zoogeographic provinces through bottom-up processes.

  3. Ecosystem controls are dynamic: Changes in the timing of ice retreat alter zooplankton production and ultimately the distribution of its consumers. Such changes can lead to a community controlled by either top down or bottom up processes with multiple trophic consequences.

  4. Location matters: Domain boundaries of many consumers are driven by climate and ocean conditions. The timing and extent of these boundaries will lead to bottom up processes ultimately impacting the foraging success of marine birds and mammals.

  5. Commercial and subsistence fisheries reflect climate: Changing climate-ocean conditions will affect the abundance and distribution of commercial and subsistence fisheries.

The BEST-BSIERP data are a valuable resource that could be used to address questions relevant to the coordinated programs. While NSF does not plan to issue a broad proposal solicitation for further exploitation of this resource, the Division of Arctic Sciences will accept proposals for short (up to two years duration) synthesis activities associated with the goals of BEST.

Proposals could, among other approaches, include workshops; modeling; or multiple intense, focused interactions of small groups of investigators. Successful proposals would enhance and develop synergies with the existing efforts, not simply continue or integrate them. In order to facilitate exploitation of these data, prospective investigators may access metadata describing the available data sets at http://www.eol.ucar.edu/projects/best/.

Proposals should be submitted to the next regular Arctic Division solicitation: http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5521&org=ARC&from=home.

The deadline is Wednesday, 10 November 2010.

For more information, see the Dear Colleague letter: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2010/nsf10067/nsf10067.jsp or contact William J. Wiseman, NSF Arctic Natural Sciences Program Manager (wwiseman [at] nsf.gov).