Coral reefs provide nearly $30 billion in net benefits in goods and services to world economies each year, including tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection, and an estimated $3.4 billion annually in total economic value to the U.S. The Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 authorizes a national program that includes “monitoring [and] assessment . . . that benefit the understanding, sustainable use, and long-term conservation of coral reefs and coral reef ecosystems.” The Coral Program developed the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) to:a) support conservation of the nation’s coral reef ecosystems through documenting and understanding the status and trends of core indicators b) provide an ecosystem perspective by monitoring climate, fish, benthic, and socioeconomic variables in a consistent and integrated manner,c) coordinate various Coral Program biological, physical, and human dimensions activities into a cohesive NOAA-wide effort, and d) communicate results of national-scale monitoring to national, state, and territorial policy makers, resource managers, and the public on a periodic basis. The goals of NCRMP are to:• develop consistent and comparable methods for all indicators• develop and maintain strong partnerships with federal, state/territory, and academic partners• collect scientifically sound, geographically comprehensive biological, climate, and socioeconomic data in U.S. coral areas• deliver high-quality data, data products, and tools to the coral reef conservation community• provide context for interpreting results of localized monitoring• provide periodic assessments of the status and trends of the nation’s coral reef ecosystems The focus is on four monitoring themes: benthic community structure, fish community structure, climate impacts, and socioeconomic condition. NCRMP monitoring covers all ten priority U.S coral reef areas: Florida, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands [USVI], Flower Garden Banks [FGB], Main Hawaiian Islands [MHI], Northwestern Hawaiian Islands [NWHI], Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands [CNMI], American Samoa, and the Pacific Remote Island Areas [PRIA]. Benthic and fish monitoring will be conducted using a diver-based stratified random-sampling design throughout shallow water coral reefs. Carbonate chemistry water sampling will be conducted at a subset of the biological sampling areas, while a smaller number of fixed stations will have variable configurations of instrumentation, including ocean acidification monitoring buoys at six locations. Satellite monitoring of regional thermal stress will complement in situ measurements of ocean temperature. Socioeconomic monitoring will be conducted using human dimension surveys of a random sample of residents every three to four years. Partnerships with the state or territory governments, as well as federal agencies (including U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument) and academic institutions (including Nova Southeastern University, University of Hawai’i, University of Miami, University of Puerto Rico, and University of the Virgin Islands) will provide valuable monitoring data (particularly at various long-term fixed-site locations), logistical support for field operations, scientific research, and statistical analyses that will contribute to NCRMP implementation and status and trends assessments.
NCRMP will provide a consistent flow of information about the status and trends of environmental conditions, living reef resources, and the people and processes that interact with coral reef ecosystems. Results will be reported through a periodic national-level status and trends report. Data will be used to help evaluate the efficacy of place-based investments in coral reef conservation, which in turn will ensure that the Coral Program’s goals and objectives are achieved, and that U.S. coral reef ecosystems—and the communities that depend on them—benefit from conservation activities.Localized monitoring activities outside of NCRMP are generally at smaller scales, address more direct management needs, or may address different questions than national-level status and trends monitoring. Jurisdictional monitoring programs will benefit from the context that the broad-scale NCRMP monitoring will provide, information on climate and socioeconomic parameters that are sparsely observed by non-NCRMP entities, as well as the best practices and standard operating procedures (SOPs) developed by NCRMP scientists to provide consistent and comparable data collection.Ultimately, NCRMP data will be used to generate a periodic national-level report on the status and trends of U.S. coral reefs. This report will assimilate and synthesize the NCRMP data products to tell the story of how the condition of the nation’s reefs is changing over time. The primary audience for this report is intended to be Congress and other high-level decision makers. A relatively short document will replace the Coral Program’s previous major monitoring reports in an effort to more clearly and succinctly disseminate status and trends of U.S. coral reefs as a whole. The final format of the national-level report will be determined with the assistance of NOAA and/or partner communications and messaging staff members. Indicators would be presented by sub-jurisdictional reporting unit, jurisdiction, as well as rolled up by basin (Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean), and finally summarized at a national level. Key findings, additional information, and case studies will augment the status and trends reporting tools.
Jursdiction Priority Sites: