NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve, and restore the nation's coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function.
The new Coral Emergency Response Fund, a partnership between NOAA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), provides grants to rapidly respond to damage, disease, and stressors to corals and coral reefs that could not otherwise have been reasonably anticipated or avoided. This funding program is the first of its kind and allows NOAA and NFWF to respond to emergency events far more quickly than a traditional grant program can, enabling prompt damage assessment, triage, and initial response actions.
Two grants of this kind were issued in Fiscal Year 2021, both focusing on the spread of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Caribbean. One of the grants went to Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute to treat diseased corals in the Dry Tortugas. The combined teams conducted a total of 265 dives covering an area larger than 146 football fields. A total of 6,038 corals were treated — more than doubling the total number of treated corals throughout the whole of Florida’s coral reef since intervention began in late 2018.
Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse, culturally significant, and economically valuable ecosystems, and restoration efforts are necessary to mitigate their declining populations. The Manager’s Guide to Coral Reef Restoration Planning and Design was developed to support the needs of reef managers seeking to begin restoration or assess their current restoration program. The guide is based on global best practices and was tested with managers throughout the Pacific region. The project was made possible through financial support from CRCP, the NOAA Restoration Center, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, and the Nature Conservancy’s Reef Resilience Network.
CRCP released the NOAA Strategy for Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Response and Prevention to guide response to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. The high-level strategy provides a framework and focus for efforts to slow the continued spread of the disease across the Atlantic and Caribbean regions, and to prevent and prepare for the spread of the disease into the Indo-Pacific region. NOAA is working with state and federal partners in Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico to lead disease response efforts in these coral reef jurisdictions, and is supporting coordination with the wider Caribbean region.
A new guidebook, Unpaved Road Standards for Caribbean and Pacific Islands, helps users on high-gradient islands in the tropics identify the cause of unpaved road erosion, develop a strategy for addressing the problem, and implement that strategy on a specific road, or on a larger, ecologically meaningful scale. The manual provides recommended design standards and best management practices to minimize erosion, improve drainage and accessibility, and reduce the long-term maintenance burden. More importantly, this guide offers suggested elements for building or improving municipal road programs to ensure that unpaved roads do not become a chronic sediment source or public nuisance. CRCP's partners in this effort included the NOAA Restoration Center, Horsley Witten Group, Protectores de Cuencas, and other jurisdictional partners.