Ecosystem Science and Conservation Working Group
Threatened by various natural and human stresses, including nutrient overenrichment, overfishing, and increases in sedimentation rates, coral reef ecosystems are deteriorating worldwide. Increasingly severe bleaching events, disease outbreaks, anthropogenic alterations of local and global environments, and the synergistic effects of these stresses are thought to contribute to this decline. Strategic research on coral reef ecosystems provides managers with tools to improve the integrity and sustainable use of these ecosystems. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) and its many partners are conducting short-term strategic and long-term ecosystem-based research to:
- Understand coral reef community dynamics and the impacts of human-caused and natural stressors;
- Identify possible management strategies to mitigate negative impacts; and
- Evaluate the effectiveness of these management actions after they are implemented.
Strategic research enhances national, regional, and local capabilities to measure, understand, analyze, and forecast ecological change in response to stressors. Targeted research answers specific questions and provides coastal and ocean managers with the tools needed to provide effective management and protection of local coral reef resources.
Research has improved knowledge of both global coral reef coverage and coral health. Coral disease and restoration research provides information to resource managers on the causes, predisposing factors, and effects of diseases of coral reef organisms. Other key research activities focus on understanding population connectivity of reef organisms and coral disease to provide fundamental knowledge to guide management efforts and design marine protected areas.
As part of the development of the National Action Plan, the Ecosystem Science and Conservation Working Group provided the following recommendations to the USCRTF in 1999:
- Build a national network of marine protected areas for coral reefs
- Utilize the Coral Reef Protected Areas: A Guide for Management
- Appendix 1 (Building a National Network of Marine Protected Areas for Coral Reefs, Second Draft)
- Appendix 1 (con't)-V
- Appendix VII
- Establish regionally-focused competitive grants program for coral reefs research on the underlying factors that regulate coral reef ecosystems and on causes and impacts of important anthropogenic threats to coral reef health
- Establish an interagency Coral Disease and Health Consortium to study, evaluate, track and predict outbreaks of coral diseases and bleaching worldwide
- Establish Hawai'i Coral Reef Emergency Response teams to rapidly assess damage to coral reefs and develop strategies for addressing them