Featured Coral Publications

Below is a sampling of publications generated by NOAA's coral ecosystem activities. Visit the Featured Archive to see a past list of highlighted publications. To access a complete list of NOAA coral ecosystem related publications, use the CoRIS Geoportal ( search tool.

Transport Pathways of Marine Larvae Around the Mariana Archipelago

The overall goal of the assessment was to evaluate ocean currents as a mechanism of transport and to compare connectivity among larvae with different life-history characteristics using computer simulations. Cumulative connectivity over a recent 9 year span was investigated for the entire region. Island roles as larval sources and destinations, as well as self-seeding versus larval import, were evaluated for each of the Marianas. For Guam and Saipan, the two most populous islands, the seasonal and inter-annual variation in larval supply was examined.

An Assessment of Nutrients, Sedimentation, and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) in the St. Thomas East End Reserves (STEER)

The purpose of this project is to assess land-based sources of pollution (LBSP) and their effects, and to characterize the biological community within the St. Thomas East End Reserves (STEER) in St. Thomas, USVI. The results of nearly two years of monthly monitoring for nutrients, sedimentation, and total suspended solids (TSS) at six sites in the STEER are summarized.

Watershed Scale Planning to Reduce Land-Based Sources of Pollution (LBSP) for the Protection of Coral Reefs in Southeast Florida: An Overview and Data Gap Assessment

This project provides an assessment framework for evaluating the impacts of land-based sources of pollution (LBSP) on the coral reef ecosystem in southeast coastal waters of Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. Rapid population growth and intense increases in land development in this region over the past 50-100 years have put the coral reef ecosystem and supporting estuarine habitats under significant stress. Pollutants from these land-based human activities include nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus), sediments, pathogens pharmaceutical and personal care products, and other LBSPs. These pollutants are discharged to the southeast Florida coastal ecosystem in large part in stormwater runoff (both urban and agricultural) and wastewater effluent and the management of stormwater and wastewater in southeast Florida affects the pollutants loads and ecosystem impacts. The purpose of this document is to assist the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) partners in tackling the problems associated with LBSP by identifying sources of pollution, data availability and gaps, and sources of information from past planning and management activities in southeastern Florida. This report creates a watershed-based framework for understanding and assessing the pollutant sources and loads, and uses nine coastal inlets in the region as the basis for defining the contributing watersheds. This report will provide a roadmap for future LBSP-related data collection and pollution reduction efforts in southeast Florida.

Climate Change Strategy and Implementation Plan, 2014-2016

Climate change and ocean acidification have been identified as the most important global threat to coral reefs. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability coral reefs, along with the Arctic Sea, are identified as systems that are uniquely threatened even if additional temperature rise is held to 2°C rise. This publication refines and builds upon the Coral Reef Conservation Program Goals and Objectives 2010-2015 to direct Program investments in reducing the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification to coral reef ecosystems.

Coral Reef Resilience Research and Management: Past, Present and Future!

The Coral Reef Resilience Research and Management - Past, Present and Future! Workshop was held November 4-6, 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii and was attended by scientists and managers from management agencies, universities, and conservation organizations. Facilitated discussions focused on five themes that were collaboratively set with participants prior to the workshop to cover both existing research funded by the CRCP and new research opportunities and management needs. The themes were: Mapping Environmental Disturbance/Exposure; Field Based Resilience Assessments (includes Herbivorous Fish); Connectivity; Land-based Sources of Pollution; and Managers Use of Resilience Assessments and Reporting. A sixth crosscutting theme, Training and Capacity Building, was also discussed during each of the theme sessions and during a concluding session. Priority next steps for a ‘Social-Ecological Resilience’ theme were identified for a future workshop.

Framework for the National System of Marine Protected Areas of the United States of America

The purpose of this document is to provide a framework for developing and implementing a National System of MPAs; it is not a blueprint for the establishment of individual MPAs. To provide a blueprint for building the National System of MPAs, the Presidential Executive Order 13158 of May 26, 2000 called for the development of a framework for a National System of MPAs and directed the establishment of a National MPA Center (MPA Center) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to lead the system’s development and implementation. The Framework for the National System of MPAs of the United States of America (Framework) was originally developed between 2005 and 2008, with extensive input from federal and state MPA agencies, the public, and the MPA Federal Advisory Committee (MPA FAC). This updated Framework reflects the experience of the National System based on its implementation since November 2008, as well as additional recommendations from the MPA FAC.

Human, Oceanographic and Habitat Drivers of Central and Western Pacific Coral Reef Fish Assemblages

In this study, staff of NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and colleagues examine the relative influence of multiple human, oceanographic and environmental factors on coral reef fish biomass at nearly 40 US and US-affiliated Pacific islands and atolls. Biological data comes from consistent large-scale ecosystem monitoring from the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program, which is part of NOAA's National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. In total, the survey involves over 2,000 hours of underwater observation by divers at 1,934 sites. Consistent with previous smaller-scale studies, results show sharp declines in reef fish biomass at relatively low human population density, followed by more gradual declines as human population density increased further. Adjusting for other factors, the highest levels of oceanic productivity among study locations were associated with more than double the biomass of reef fishes (including about 4 times the biomass of planktivores and piscivores) compared to islands with lowest oceanic productivity. Results emphasize that coral reef areas do not all have equal ability to sustain large reef fish stocks, and that what is  natural varies significantly amongst locations. Comparisons of biomass estimates derived from visual surveys with predicted biomass in the absence of humans indicated that total reef fish biomass was depleted by 61% to 69% at populated islands in the Mariana Archipelago; by 20% to 78% in the Main Hawaiian islands; and by 21% to 56% in American Samoa.

Managing Herbivores for their Impacts on Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems: A summary Report for Managers and Practitioners

Caribbean reefs have suffered unprecedented declines over the last several decades due to a variety of factors. Some of the most rapid and dramatic changes occurred following the region-wide die-off of the sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, in the mid-1980s, which resulted in the proliferation of algae on many reefs, especially those with few herbivorous fishes. Thirty years later, Diadema remain rare in most locations, algae are abundant on many reefs, and there is concern that fisheries targeting herbivorous fishes, especially parrotfishes, are compromising the function of many reef ecosystems. In some locations, such as the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Bahamas, robust populations of herbivorous fishes have been associated with elevated coral recruitment and positive reef trajectories. Yet other reefs, such as those in the Florida Keys, show no signs of recovery despite abundant herbivore populations. The emerging picture suggests that impacts of herbivores on coral recovery are likely to be highly context-dependent, and that management actions targeting herbivores will vary in their ability to facilitate coral persistence and recovery.  This report, which summarizes information from a larger scientific review (Adam et al. 2015), is intended to serve as a guide on how to manage herbivore populations to facilitate healthy, resilient coral reefs.

Recovery Plan for Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) Corals

The purpose of this recovery plan is to identify a strategy for rebuilding and assuring the long-term viability of elkhorn coral and staghorn coral populations in the wild. The goal, objectives, and criteria represent our expectation of what is needed to increase the abundance and to protect the genetic diversity of elkhorn and staghorn coral populations throughout their geographical ranges and ultimately to remove these two coral species from the list of endangered and threatened species. Recovery criteria can be viewed as targets, or values, by which progress toward achievement of recovery objectives can be measured.

In this report, the Population-based Recovery Criteria (criteria 1-3) represent what recovered species would look like. The Threat-based Recovery Criteria (criteria 4-10) represent the conditions needed to abate the impacts of threats identified as contributing to the species’ threatened status and allow them to sustain a recovered status.

Representativeness of Marine Protected Areas of the United States

This analysis of representativeness in 1,628 MPAs is based upon the presence/absence of major habitat types, key natural resources and ecologically important areas and processes. This report assesses two aspects of representativeness in MPAs in United States waters : (i) the presence of MPAs in the 19 marine ecoregions of U.S. waters; and, (ii) the presence and representativeness in those MPAs of major habitat types (e.g., corals, seagrass, rocky intertidal, submarine canyons), key natural resources (e.g., invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, birds), and ecologically important areas and processes (e.g., fish spawning, bird nesting and upwelling areas and feeding grounds).