Wide areas of coral reefs have witnessed serious degradation and repeated large-scale bleaching and coral mortality over the last decade. This has been linked to the effects of global climate change and it is widely believed that similar strong perturbances may repeatedly affect reefs in the near future, possibly leading to severe losses.
While some of the climatic and ocean environmental drivers for large-scale and local coral mortality are well known, it is unclear whether the effects of similar disturbances on reefs are the same in different regions and differing environmental settings. By investigating a number of reefs around the globe, the NCRI Monitoring Network hopes to find out whether reefs follow the same trajectory (i.e., towards general degradation or not) or whether different regions react differently, or whether each reef reacts uniquely.
Project and Findings
Study sites are situated throughout the US territories and include all different reef types (i.e., fringing, barrier, atoll, patch). Individual sites are situated outside the US in order to assure wordwide coverage. In each study site, the reefs are evaluated from landscape scale (mapping by remote-sensing, application of spatial statistics and models) via a population scale (population assessment and explicit modeling) to a subcellular scale (assessment of stress biomarkers and genetic connectivity between sites). Also a biodiversity assessment of key reef organisms (i.e., corals) is undertaken. Thus, the NCRI Monitoring Network is one of the most integrated large-scale approaches to reef management presently undertaken.
Implications for Management
Meaningful local coral reef management is ideally nested in an understanding of regional, or even world-wide, large-scale reef trajectories. A better understanding of these large-scale patterns will facilitate the selection of priorities that could possibly allow the development of evasive actions or countermeasures to avoid degradations that might otherwise be unexpected and maybe catastrophic. In a US coral reef conservation context, the NCRI Monitoring Network will allow the ranking of different reef areas within the territorial waters according to their quality and threat level.
The NCRI Monitoring Network is directly applicable to the goals of the USCRTF and SEFCRI/SEFAST.
NCRI via NOAA-CSCOR Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Environmental Protection
NOAA Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment/Biogeography Program
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