New Tool to Assist with Assessing Coral Reef Impacts and Mitigation

Project applicants, proponents, permittees working in marine areas that support coral reefs and coral reef and coastal resource managers and regulators now have a new tool to assist them in understanding and avoiding and minimizing impacts to coral reefs and identifying potential options to compensate for unavoidable coral reef impacts. The Handbook on Coral Reef Impacts: Avoidance, Minimization, Compensatory Mitigation and Restoration is a product of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Coral Injury and Mitigation Working Group.

Coral reefs are subject to numerous local, regional and global stressors. Managers and regulators working to address impacts to coral reefs are further constrained by the difficulty in restoring and replacing these complex systems. Natural reefs are biologically, chemically, physically and morphologically complex, take many years to develop, and are difficult to restore. While existing guidance and tools have been developed for mitigation and restoration for stream and wetland impacts, new guidance and tools are needed to guide mitigation and restoration for coral reef impacts due to their differences in ecological structure, function, and dynamics and the difficulty in replacing lost functions.

The Handbook provides a characterization of the federal mandates; review of existing policies and federal agency, state and territory roles and responsibilities; and a compendium of best practices, science-based methodologies for quantifying ecosystem functions or services, and protocols available for use when assessing unavoidable impacts to coral reef ecosystems and mitigating or restoring for unavoidable impacts to coral reef ecosystems where warranted through appropriate compensatory action to replace the lost functions and services. This product is an amalgamation of coral reef best management practices.

The Handbook was developed by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Coral Injury and Mitigation Working Group in response to 2006 resolution that called for coordinating efforts to improve tools and capacity for responding to both planned and unplanned injuries for coral reefs. The Handbook is also developed in response to the 2013 National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan as a key action to preserve, conserver, and restore coastal and ocean habitats by reducing adverse conditions that reduce coastal and ocean resilience.

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force brings together representatives from 12 federal agencies, officials from state and territory governments, and delegates from three freely associated states to further coral reef conservation. Key partners in this effort include, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Navy, the State of Florida, the State of Hawaii, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Click here for a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Click here for the Handbook on Coral Reef Impacts: Avoidance, Minimization, Compensatory Mitigation and Restoration.