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An Ecological Characterization of the Marine Resources of Vieques, Puerto Rico


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Objectives

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science collaborated with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) and other local and regional experts to conduct a characterization of the marine ecosystem around Vieques Island, Puerto Rico in support of research, monitoring, and management, as well as restoration and cleanup efforts. The specific objectives are as follows:

  1. Synthesize and integrate known data and information on the marine resources of Vieques
  2. Collect additional monitoring data in Vieques to complement previous efforts and provide a broad characterization of marine benthic habitats, associated biological communities, nutrients, and contaminant concentrations in coral and sediments
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Project Summary

From the early 1940s until 2003, portions of the Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and adjacent coastal waters, were used by the United States Navy (USN) as an ammunition support detachment and a naval training range, which included an area designated as a military target for training exercises with live artillery. During this period, virtually all civilian activity was restricted in these zones. Beginning in April 2001, the USN began phasing out military activities on the Island and transferring military property to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Municipality of Vieques, and the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. A comprehensive assessment of the distribution and status of the marine resources of Vieques is timely in light of the recent land transfer, increases in development and tourism, and potential changes in marine zoning around the island. To meet this need, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), in consultation with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) and other local and regional experts, conducted a characterization of coral reef ecosystems, contaminants, and nutrient distribution patterns around Vieques.

The approach to characterizing the island’s coral reef ecosystems consists of two main components. In the first part of this assessment, conducted by CCMA’s Biogeography Branch, previously existing data and descriptions from published reports and assessments were integrated into a synthesis report describing the island’s marine ecology. This included include available data on reefs, fish, birds, seagrasses, turtles, mangroves, climate, land use, and geology.

Part II of this assessment is a joint NCCOS effort encompassing the work of CCMA’s Biogeography Branch, CCMA’s Coastal and Oceanographic Assessment, Status and Trends (COAST) Branch, and the Center for Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR). This work builds upon previous efforts by presenting newly collected data on fish, benthic habitats, contaminant concentrations in sediments and coral, and nutrients in coastal waters. Data were analyzed in the context of historical land-use patterns in Vieques and will serve as a baseline to compare future studies. Additionally, this work was conducted using many of the same protocols as ongoing monitoring work underway elsewhere in the U.S. Caribbean, enabling comparisons among coral reef ecosystems in Vieques and other locations in the region.

Together, both components of the characterization will provide research and monitoring tools to support effective management and conservation of the island’s marine resources.

fish in coral diver diver

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Time Frame

Completed: April 2006 - May 2010

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Project Manager:
1305 East West Highway
SSMC-IV, N/SCI-1
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3022 x236



1305 East West Highway
SSMC-IV, N/SCI-1
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3022 x144