This year, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program completed a science evaluation to gain a better understanding of how the data, tools and products it provides are used by stakeholders. A panel of leading coral reef experts provided input to the program on the accessibility of the information to coral reef managers and policy makers, how helpful these products are for coastal management decision makers, and how the data, information, and products are being used to support coral reef conservation. This review covered NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program-funded ecosystem science only. Reports from the panelists and the program's response, including an action plan based on panelists' recommendations, will soon be available on the program's web site.
NOAA’s coral reef research portfolio was well represented at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Honolulu Hawaii with researchers joining sessions and media events on the conservation, restoration, policy, and science of coral reef and associated habitats. ICRS organizers also hosted a Leader’s Summit with the presidents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Republic of the Marshall Islands. These leaders issued a call to action requesting increased collaboration between the scientific community and local governments, acknowledging there needs to be more funding and a strengthened commitment to protecting coral reefs. ICRS is the largest international meeting focused on coral reef science and management. It was hosted by the International Society for Reef Studies and was sponsored by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The symposium takes place every four years.
2016 marked the third year of a $20 million dollar partnership between NOAA and the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia to strengthen local marine conservation in an area with some of the planet’s most diverse marine habitats. NOAA provided trainings on:
Ecosystem approaches to fisheries management in the Philippines,
Marine protected area management in the Philippines and Indonesia,
Development of sustainable marine tourism in Indonesia, and
Methods and technologies, like visible infrared imaging, to enhance marine enforcement in the Philippines and Indonesia.
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program coordinates the agency’s engagement in international coral reef issues. NOS, NMFS, OAR, and NESDIS play a key role in implementing the trainings that are core parts of this five-year partnership with USAID.
Educating the public on the value of coral reef ecosystems and the threats they face in a changing environment is key to their conservation. In 2016, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program continued efforts to engage the public in order to move the conservation needle in a positive direction. In the spring, the program launched its newly redesigned web site, www.coralreef.noaa.gov. With web stories, featured data products from the Coral Reef Information System, and a multimedia library, the site lets visitors dive right into what the NOAA coral reef research community is doing on the ground and in the water. The program also joined the Twittersphere, highlighting the latest news, findings, images and videos on @NOAACoral, and grew its following on Facebook to over 50,000 supporters. Successful efforts to draw media attention to the ongoing threat of coral bleaching and what the agency is doing to address it continued with press conferences, interviews with the media, the development of infographics, and a popular “Ask Us Anything” session on “Coral bleaching and why there’s hope”, that drew over 7.6 million Redditors.
Scientists collected biological, climatic, and socioeconomic data in 2016 to measure changes in U.S. coral reef ecosystems as part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. In the Hawaiian Archipelago, NOAA scientists conducted hundreds of fish and benthic surveys and recovered and re-deployed instruments to assess impacts of ocean acidification and warming. In the Atlantic, scientists gathered similar data at sites in Puerto Rico and Florida. Social science researchers focused on the connections between coral reef ecosystems and people, their communities and economies by completing resident surveys in Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. Satellite remote sensing provided data across all U.S. reef areas, filling gaps between field sampling sites. The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program is an integrated and focused monitoring effort with partners across the U.S. and its territories. Outcomes will help managers, decision makers, and communities better understand the condition of their resources and take effective place-based conservation actions.