A Better Understanding of Coral Reef Ecosystems

Pelagic predators such as these barracuda, Sphyraena qenie, are part of the coral reef ecosystem in the U.S. Line Islands (NOAA Photo by Kevin Lino).
A team of scientists have embarked from Hawai'i on a three-month survey of coral reef ecosystems at Johnston Atoll, the U.S. Phoenix Islands, the islands of American Samoa, and the U.S. Line Islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The overarching objective is to better understand the coral reef ecosystems of these areas, many of which are seldom explored. The research expedition is part of a regular monitoring program, conducted by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), headquartered in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The expedition is supported by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and involves extensive cooperation among NOAA scientists and research partners, including the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego State University, and the Papahānaumaokuākea Marine National Monument.

The research expedition will be carried out from February 27 to May 24, 2012 aboard the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai. Under the leadership of Chief Scientists Dr. Jill Zamzow, Dr. Bernardo Vargas-Angél, and Jamison Gove, a diverse team of researchers will be conducting multidisciplinary coral reef ecosystem surveys, assessing the status of fishes, corals, algae, marine invertebrates, and the oceanographic conditions in which these organisms exist. The scientific data collected during the three-month research expedition will enable informed and effective implementation of ecosystem-based management and conservation strategies for coral reef ecosystems, helping to ensure their protection for generations to come.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Who are we and what do we do?

by Benjamin Richards

This year we will be sailing with 22 scientists from NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers who study the oceanography, fish, coral, algae, invertebrates and birds that live in and around the remote reefs and atolls of the U.S. Pacific Islands. Our main objective is to continue monitoring for natural or anthropogenic (human-induced) fluctuations in the reef communities and to document the range of species (or biodiversity) that exists in various reef habitats.  As our data set grows we are also working to identify patterns of habitat use and species' interactions. During this research cruise, teams of divers will be surveying the reef communities, recording species abundance, diversity, and spatial distribution for all four of these key components of the ecosystem. Our US Fish and Wildlife Service colleagues will be going ashore on various islands to study and monitor the local bird and sea turtle communities.

During the cruise we will be conducting three main kinds of SCUBA surveys: towed-diver surveys, Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs), and Stationary Point Counts (SPCs), each of which is designed to gather information on a different part of the reef community. Biological data from these surveys can be analyzed in the context of oceanographic conditions and benthic habitat maps to help us understand how coral reefs function as an interconnected ecosystem.

Over the past 10 years, our main research objectives have been to:
  • Document baseline conditions of the health of coral reef living resources (fish, coral, algae, and invertebrates) in the U.S. Pacific Islands.
  • Refine species inventory lists of these resources for the island areas.
  • Monitor these reef resources over time to quantify possible natural or anthropogenic impacts.
  • Document natural temporal and spatial variability in the reef resource community.
  • Improve our understanding of the ecosystem linkages between and among species, trophic levels, and surrounding environmental conditions.
We hope you will join us to learn more as we continue our explorations of this amazing world beneath the waves ...

No comments:

Post a Comment