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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 (https://www.coris.noaa.gov/search/) search tool.

New Study Compares Coral Reef Monitoring Data Collected In-Water and 3D Imaging Data

As threats to coral reefs—ocean warming, ocean acidification, fishing pressure, and local impacts like pollution—increase in severity and frequency, scientists are looking for ways to increase monitoring scale and efficiency. Scientists are now exploring the use of 3D technology such as photogrammetry, also called Structure-from-Motion, to collect imagery that can be analyzed later and significantly reduce dive time underwater. Collecting 3D imagery also has the added benefit of creating a permanent record of a reef site to look at in the future. While Structure-from-Motion imagery can potentially save time in the water, it involves much more time to extract data. The big question is whether data collected in the water in real-time is comparable to data extracted from 3D imagery for the same reef area. In a new study, National Coral Reef Monitoring Program scientists at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center led by Dr. Courtney Couch compared data from in-water coral surveys to data generated from Structure-from-Motion imagery for the first time to test the differences between the methods for the same reef areas.

Economic Impact Analysis of Recreational Fishing, SCUBA Diving, and Snorkeling on Florida’s Coral Reefs

Coral reefs provide important economic and environmental services (also known as ecosystem services) such as food, protection for coasts, recreation and tourism. With all of these services and benefits that coral reefs support, a couple of questions to consider are how much are coral reefs worth and how much do coral reefs impact the economy? In 2016-2017, NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program funded two studies to assess the economic impacts to county and state-level Florida economies generated from 1) recreational fishing trips and 2) SCUBA diving and snorkeling trips on Southeast Florida’s reefs. The economic impacts of reef-related recreational fishing, diving and snorkeling were estimated and are reported in two reports. The reports include estimates for the Southeast Florida counties of Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and the state of Florida.

Increasing coral calcification in Orbicella faveolata and Pseudodiploria strigosa at Flower Garden Banks, Gulf of Mexico

NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory used climate monitoring data and coral cores from the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program to show that two key coral species in Flower Garden Banks have increased calcification in the past 45 to 57 years. The data indicate that these corals have actually benefited from warming ocean temperatures over the last few decades. However, based on climate projections and the warming trend, the stimulation in growth due to warmer waters will eventually be impacted by worse and more frequent coral bleaching events. Given that the most severe bleaching event ever recorded at Flower Garden Banks occurred in 2016, the growth rates of these corals are likely reaching the threshold where further increases in ocean temperatures will no longer benefit coral growth.

Predicting extreme tide events to inform shallow reef community restoration and management in Guam

This project report describes a novel approach to develop a spatially explicit model to predict the frequency of low-stand events. This will help guide the selection of restoration sites, and identify both sites at future risk and those with greater refuge from low-stand events that could benefit from increased management. Benthic surveys to evaluate mortality were undertaken at 18 sites around Guam that experienced significant coral mortality from recent extreme low-tide events or were strategically selected for geographic representation around the island. At these sites, tidal variations were logged over five-week periods, and critical depth thresholds (e.g., past subaerial exposure) were determined. The tidal data from the sites were correlated with long-term data from the Apra Harbor tide gauge on Guam. Using the derived relationships and depth thresholds, and modifying a model used to predict high-tide (or nuisance) events, spatially-explicit predictions of vulnerability to subaerial exposure were produced (see map). This analysis has demonstrated the applicability of the methodology to other sites in the Pacific region, such as American Samoa and the Saipan Lagoon in CNMI, each of which has experienced similar, significant, recent coral loss.

National Coral Reef Monitoring Program Socioeconomic Monitoring Component. Summary Findings for South Florida, 2019

The Socioeconomic Component of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) gathers and monitors a collection of socioeconomic data in seven U.S. coral jurisdictions. The team started its second monitoring cycle with data collection in South Florida in 2019, and recently released their report of summary findings along with a new infographic. The report outlines current human dimensions information relevant to coral reef resources in South Florida, as well as trends between the first (2014) and second monitoring cycles, while the infographic focuses solely on the 2019 findings. Survey results are representative of each of the five counties adjacent to Florida’s coral reef tract: Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe.

Exploratory Treatments for Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease: Pillar Coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus)

Recent losses of Dendrogyra cylindrus from the wild have been due largely to the panzootic of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). In 2016, a multi-institutional collaboration began rescuing the remaining genotypes from the wild and placing them into ex situ and in situ nurseries. NOAA NOS NCCOS Coral Health and Disease Program (Charleston SC) conducted exploratory treatments to recover and rehabilitate D. cylindrus genotypes. This NOAA Technical Memorandum chronicles over four years (2016-2019) and seven collection and rescue events, experimental treatments, and rehabilitation of Dendrogyra cylindrus genotypes afflicted with SCTLD from Florida reefs.

Saving the Exceptional Corals in Florida's Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area

Florida's Coral Reef stretches approximately 360 linear miles from St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County past Key West to the Dry Tortugas, including Biscayne National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area.

NOAA Strategy for Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Response and Prevention

Stony coral tissue loss disease was first observed in south Florida in 2014. As of September 2020, it has spread to 13 Caribbean countries and territories. The outbreak is unique due to its large geographic range, extended duration, rapid progression, high rates of coral mortality, and the number of species affected. Once infected, coral colonies typically die within weeks to months. While the cause of the disease is still unknown, it is believed that the pathogen may have a bacterial component due to its response to antibiotic treatments. Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease can be transmitted to other corals through direct contact and water circulation. Recently, leadership from Indo-Pacific countries and territories shared concerns that the disease could spread into the region.