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U.S. Caribbean Coral Bleaching Assessment

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The goals of this project are to characterize the spatial extent of coral bleaching and recovery and monitor the effects of coral bleaching on U.S. Caribbean coral reef ecosystems. The specific objectives of this project are as follows:

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  1. To spatially characterize the extent of coral bleaching that occurred during the bleaching event of September/October 2005 within managed areas (Buck Island Reef National Monument (BUIS), and the East End Marine Park (EEMP) of St. Croix; Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (VICR) and Virgin Islands National Park (VIIS) of St. John);
  2. To determine the spatial extents of recovery or mortality of bleached corals;
  3. To characterize any effects of coral bleaching on coral reef ecosystems;
  4. To assist the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), with the collection of spectroradiometer measurements and calibration data for hyperspectral imagery (Airborne Visible Infrared/Imaging Spectrometer, AVIRIS); and,
  5. To develop further the knowledge base needed by local park managers for assessing the effectiveness of marine protected area regulations

Project Summary

This project will assess extent of bleaching, recovery and mortality of corals in the BUIS and the EEMP. During October 2005, researchers from NOAA’s Biogeography Branch (NOAA BB) and the National Park Service’s South Florida Caribbean Network (NPS-SFCN) observed widespread bleaching of corals in U.S. Caribbean Ecosystems. The observed bleaching was part of a larger event occurring throughout the tropical western Atlantic (Coral Reef Watch). Coral bleaching was observed at 91 of 94 randomly selected sites, with 53% of the observed coral cover being severely bleached. During a small follow-up study conducted in December 2005, NOAA BB researchers again observed coral bleaching at 15 of 18 sites, but with only 8% of the observed coral cover being severely bleached. About 20% of observed coral cover was partially bleached, which suggested that recovery was occurring. Future monitoring of coral bleaching and recovery will occur in March 2006 during NOAA BB’s next biannual monitoring of coral reef ecosystems at the BUIS and EEMP, part of the Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring project. In December, 2005, NOAA BB assisted NASA ARC by providing diving support for collecting AVIRIS data. NOAA BB will work closely with NASA to process and make available the AVIRIS data and related products to the local management community. Additionally, NOAA BB will work closely with researchers from NPS SFCN, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to characterize the 2005 bleaching event at the BUIS, VICR, and the VIIS.

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  • Coral Bleaching Final Report


Time Frame

Completed: October 2005 - May 2006

For More Information

Project Manager:
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 x229

Related Biogeography Projects

Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring