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Identifying coral reef resilience potential in American Samoa based on CRED coral reef monitoring data


Project Manager:
Bernardo Vargas-Angel
Project Years:
Project Summary:
Purpose/Need: Reefs in American Samoa have been repeatedly impacted by predation from Crown-Of-Thorns Seastars (COTS), and are also increasingly threatened by impacts related to climate change such as bleaching. Local managers have expressed a specific interest (AS Objective 3.1) in having a formal Reef Resilience Assessment (RRA) completed to increase their understanding of the capability of reefs around Tutuila to withstand these and other emerging threats. The proposed project will provide a comprehensive assessment of the resilience of marine resources to address the managers' request, and support long-term adaptive management of reefs in Tutuila. This is a new project, which for FY15 will build on processes developed for the CRCP-funded RRA of the main Hawaiian Islands (Vargas-Angel-810, FY13).Research/Project objectives:- Engage local scientists through participation in project development, data collection and integration.- Complete a RRA of priority management sites around Tutuila.- Identify factors that support reef resilience in these areas, and threats that can be mitigated through local management.Issues/Problems addressed: As indicated in the CRCP-FY16 RFP, there is a need for local managers to better understand factors underlying reef resilience, with particular concern for impacts of bleaching and COTS predation. This project directly addresses that need through a formal RRA based on established protocols. Participation of local scientists and managers will also further efforts to improve capacity and collaboration among local and federal agencies.Other affiliated projects: Our RRA will utilize data from three ongoing CRCP-funded projects in American Samoa. These projects were implemented to study land-based sources of pollution and build local capacity through surveys in Vatia (Whitall-31090), Fagamalo (Vargas-Angel-1083) and Faga'alu (Holst-917), but will collect biological data that can also inform reef resilience metrics. This RRA will also utilize metrics of sea surface temperature from Heron-786 (FY13). Additionally, this project interfaces closely with the current proposal from NOAA-CRED to conduct a social-ecological vulnerability assessment (SEVA) in American Samoa (Levine-31098). These two proposals are both concerned with effects of climate change, and will mutually benefit if both are funded because we can then share the workload for calculating biological metrics that are shared. In spite of this symbiosis and complementarity, the projects in fact differ in focus and scope. Levine's project will use socio-economic data from Vatia and Faga'alu for a SEVA at these sites, while our project focuses on climate effects on marine resources in particular and will include other sites around Tutuila. We therefore plan to incorporate several additional biological and physical metrics related to ecological resilience at priority sites identified in consultation with local marine resource managers.Methods: The framework for this RRA will be the metrics of reef resilience identified by McClanahan et al. (2012), supplemented by measures of COTS predation to address significant local concerns. We will evaluate reef resilience among areas throughout Tutuila through integration of NOAA-CRED’s biological survey data with relevant physical and environmental information. This process and spatial scale will provide a unified scientific perspective across ecological disturbance gradients throughout Tutuila.Project Partners: This and affiliated projects have been developed in close collaboration with local managers, including CRAG and DMWR. See 'Partners' section for detail.
Expected Outcome:
General: This project supports conservation of coral reefs around Tutuila, American Samoa by identifying areas that are potentially resilient/vulnerable to climate change (National Goals and Objectives C2.4 and F2.1). Conservation outcomes that we are trying to achieve include: (1) fostering informed management by developing data products that provide managers with better information to evaluate and understand factors that confer reef resilience; and (2) states and territories beginning to adopt resilience principles into tangible management actions, including integrating concepts of reef resilience into MPA designation and adaptive community-based management (AS Objective 3.2). Roadmap to resilience: This project also addresses another jurisdictional priority objective by examining reef resilience and recovery to support management strategies to mitigate impacts of climate change (AS Objective 3.1). Because resilience factors can be characterized as either primarily local or extrinsic, sites can be identified that are primarily deficient in locally driven factors versus others that may lack resilience primarily due to extrinsic factors. Identification of these characteristics therefore provides a “roadmap” that managers and communities can use to efficiently target efforts towards sites with where local solutions will contribute to long-term reef recovery and sustainability. Support for Local Action Strategies: The roadmap concept offered by RRAs—identifying avenues for local action against a backdrop of large-scale environmental issues—is also clearly reflected in the American Samoa Local Action Strategy known as “Local Response to Global Climate Change.” The results of the proposed project will provide valuable information to support and inform the decision-making process as the plan is updated and revised.Interagency collaboration and capacity building: Scientists from local agencies in American Samoa (DMWR and NMSAS) are integral contributors to field surveys around Tutuila, and NOAA-CRED will continue to be engaged with these partners during the implementation of this project (AS Objective 5.2).Products and Deliverables: Products and deliverables include (1) compilation of resilience scores for priority management areas around Tutuila, (2) dissemination of results via nontechnical reports, (3) an integrated database containing collated datasets acquired within the context of this project, (4) maps and shapefiles created during analysis and data compilation. All new data and results will be archived in CoRIS/InPort.
Project Locations:
  • American Samoa
Jursdiction Priority Sites:
  • Vatia
  • Faga’alu
Project Category:
Climate Change
Project Type:
Project Status:
Funding Ended
Associated Products:

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