The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States: 2005


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In 2003, CCMA's Biogeography Team was asked by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program to compile a report characterizing the condition of shallow water coral reef ecosystems in the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States. Such a report was called for by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force in the U.S. National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reefs as part of an effort to develop a comprehensive national coral reef ecosystem monitoring program. Coral reef ecosystems, defined broadly as coral reefs and other functionally-related shallow water habitats, are found in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Navassa Island, Florida, the Flower Garden Banks and other banks of the NW Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, the Pacific Remote Island Areas, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and Guam and the three nations comprising the Pacific Freely Associated States (the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau).

This report is the second in a series of national coral reef ecosystem status reports. The initial report, The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States: 2002 (Turgeon et al., 2002), is similar to this report in that it incorporates the work of many scientists and managers from across the world. The 2002 report provided a broad introduction to and a preliminary look at the status of coral reef ecosystems and was based primarily on qualitative information from the contributing authors. The 2005 report differs from its predecessor in that it is based primarily on the most recent quantitative monitoring data available, rather than qualitative assessments of ecosystem conditions. In addition, local writing teams composed of experts from numerous research and management institutions served as the primary authors of each jurisdiction chapter and thus were responsible for determining the content and scope of information included. As a result, this report has been published as an edited volume.

Project Summary

The 535-page report was structured to provide information according to the primary threats, topics, and goals outlined in the National Coral Reef Action Strategy (NCRAS, 2002) and other guidance documents developed by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) and its member organizations. Following the Executive Summary, which distills general conclusions from the entire document, an introductory chapter provides background information about the distribution of coral reef ecosystems in the U.S. and FAS, the different types of reefs that occur in these areas, and an estimate of the potential extent of shallow water coral reef ecosystems (including reefs, seagrass and macroalgae beds, sand patches, etc.) for each jurisdiction. The third chapter summarizes the current understanding of the key natural and anthropogenic threats to coral reef ecosystems that were identified in the NCRAS.

In chapters 4 through 17, the local writing teams characterize the current understanding of the condition of the coral reef ecosystems in their jurisdictions. Writing teams were asked to: 1) describe the geographical distribution of reefs and provide salient background information; 2) discuss how each of the key threats has manifested in their area; 3) describe existing monitoring programs and identify specific data sets upon which their assessments are based; 4) present methods, results, and discussion for each monitoring data set, organized around the three primary themes of water quality, benthic habitats, and associated biological communities; 5) introduce the conservation and management actions currently being undertaken to respond to issues of concern; and 6) provide an overall summary of the status of each jurisdiction's coral reef ecosystems and priority recommendations for future research and management alternatives.

Finally, the National Summary chapter synthesizes and integrates the results and conclusions from each of the preceding chapters to present broad-scale conclusions from a national perspective. The structure of the National Summary chapter reframes the results of the jurisdiction chapters in the context of the major goals identified in the NCRAS. Grouping the information in this way clearly demonstrates how the report conclusions can help measure progress towards overarching NCRAS goals and provide a means to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions.

This report represents an evolving effort to determine the condition of coral reef ecosystems at both local and national scales and serves as a vehicle for the dissemination of information about data collection activities in the U.S. and FAS. Data collection and integrated reporting of information are crucial to management efforts that strive to protect and conserve coral reefs, their associated habitats, and the organisms that depend on them. It is hoped that, through this and future reporting efforts, gaps in the current state of knowledge about U.S. coral reef ecosystems will be identified and filled, and that the availability of up-to-date, accurate, comprehensive scientific information will enable managers to slow or even halt the general decline in coral reef ecosystem health that has become evident in the last several decades.


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This report is intended to be revised periodically as additional data becomes available. A separate project page will be linked to this site the next edition of this report is available.

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