NOAA 2002-R443
Contact: Glenda Tyson

NOAA News Releases 2002
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sponsoring research teams that will study the coral reef ecosystems of the Caribbean for five years and Micronesia for three years in order to define and understand the causes of reef degradation there. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

The NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences (NCCOS) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) is funding the two long-term coral reef ecosystem studies on reefs of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the islands around Guam. The two programs address research priorities of NOAA and the objectives of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force National Action Plan.

While both studies share the common goal to protect healthy coral reef ecosystems and reverse the degradation of those that have been impaired by human interference, each is focused on the unique problems facing their respective regions.

The study of the Caribbean coral reefs, led by the University of Puerto Rico, builds upon current research and historical data going back 40 years. It will compare ecological and social processes, resulting in a greater understanding of coral reef function and providing a scientific basis for reef conservation and restoration.

The Caribbean research will evaluate alternative management strategies such as marine protected areas, and assess how fishery closures may affect the reefs. It will evaluate socioeconomic processes affecting the implementation and success of each reserve, and develop user-friendly computer models to be used as ecosystem management tools.

The coral research in Micronesia, led by the University of Guam, is expected to produce ways to assess the stress on coral reef ecosystems and establish water quality guidelines on coastal pollutants. The data will guide reef recovery and restoration efforts. The study will collect data on marine protected area effectiveness and on societal values of watersheds and coral reefs. It will also create educational materials and data to support the development of policies for integrated coral reef management.

Since traditional management and leadership structures are still prevalent in many of the Micronesian islands, the project also plans to transfer knowledge gained from this study into a form that can be accessed by island systems where stakeholders still control their resources primarily through established reef tenure systems.

While the setting for the Micronesian research is based in Guam, the coral reef systems of the islands of Palau and Yap is where the information generated by this study can be immediately applied to reef protection and preservation.

Recently, NOAA and other federal agencies worked together to publish a 265-page report. The report identifies the pressures that pose increasing risks to reefs and assesses the health of reef resources. The report also ranks threats in 13 geographic areas and details mitigation efforts.

NOAA is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOAA Ocean Service, which includes the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Sciences, balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

To learn more about NOAA Ocean Service, please visit:

To receive a copy of the report, visit:

For further information, on coral reefs visit:

or contact CSCOR at: