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Coral Reefs

Coral reefs

U.S. coral reef ecosystems are complex resources teeming with biological diversity. Coral reefs are vital to fisheries production and coastal protection. They also attract tourists and contribute to maritime and cultural heritage. These fragile ecosystems, however, are susceptible to the effects of extreme events like hurricanes and tropical storms, and human activities like tourism, fishing, and dredging.

Nearly 60 percent of the world's coral reefs are at risk. They are losing their hard coral covers, experiencing a proliferation of algae and coral bleaching, and enduring increased disease outbreaks.

CCMA research addresses many of these issues. The Biogeography Branch has been charged with mapping the benthic habitats of all coral reefs within U.S. waters, including territories. In addition, CCMA is assessing reef fish ecologies on these reefs. The Biogeography Branch has also mapped essential fish habitats of the U.S. Caribbean and provided color aerial photographs of nearshore waters of Puerto Rico and the USVI, as well. The Remote Sensing Team is also participating in coral reef research. It has produced an atlas of remotely sensed images of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands reef systems. In addition, the Chemical Impacts Team is analyzing sediment samples from these Hawaiian atolls to determine their overall health status.

NCCOS/NOS is working with National Marine Fisheries Service in a cooperative research program on coastal fisheries and habitats at the Beaufort Laboratory in North Carolina. The research goals is to better understand the linkages between biological and physical oceanographic processes and fish population distribution, abundance and dynamics.

The Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research in Charleston, SC is conducting related research on coral reefs.