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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 24, 2007

Contact: Ben Sherman, NOAA Public Affairs
(301) 713-3066

NOAA Initiates $1.4 Million Three-Year Project to Protect Valuable Deep Hawaiian Coral Ecosystems

NOAA has awarded $500,000 for the first year of a three-year $1.4 million project to improve understanding and address management issues concerning deep, light-dependent coral ecosystems in the Hawaiian Islands through its Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CRES) Program. The funds were awarded to researchers at the Bishop Museum, the Departments of Plant Biology and Geology at the University of Hawaii, the State of Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), and NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

“There is very little known about corals found in the 30 to 100 meter depth range," notes  retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "With new advances in technology, including unmanned remote vehicles, we now have the opportunity to gain new insights into how these deeper coral ecosystems function and their importance in the broader effort to protect coral reefs.

The multidisciplinary scientific research team will focus on a recently discovered coral ecosystem in the Au’au Channel between the islands of Maui and Lana’i. The researchers plan to determine the physical and ecological characteristics that regulate these deeper water coral ecosystems and how they differ in comparison to the ecosystem needs of shallow water counterparts. 

The researchers will use the data to predict where and how many of these unique coral ecosystems can be found in Hawaii. This information will allow resource managers to consider these areas as potential conservation zones, which may prove to be an essential component in the recovery of shallow water coral reefs.

Coral reefs in shallow coastal waters can be negatively impacted from natural events such as hurricanes, as well as from human activity because of their proximity to coastal development and their easy access for resource extraction and human recreation.   Deep, light-dependent coral ecosystems, found at depths of approximately 30 to 100 meters, known as the mesophotic zone, are usually more isolated from these human impacts. This may allow these areas to act as a refuge to species depleted in the shallow coral reefs, and to harbor a higher proportion of rare or endemic species compared to shallower coral reef environments. 

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program supports effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems. The program is a partnership between the NOAA line offices working on coral reef issues.

In fiscal year 2007, the NOAA National Ocean Service, through its Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, provided approximately $10 million in competitive grants to institutions of higher education, state, local and tribal governments, and other non-profit research institutions to assist NOAA in fulfilling its mission to study our coastal oceans.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870’s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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On the Web:

NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA National Ocean Service: http://www.oceanservice.noaa.gov

NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research: http://www.cop.noaa.gov/

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program: http://www.coralreef.noaa.gov/welcome.html

 

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