About the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program

Mission

The mission of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP) is to provide high-quality scientific information about the status and trends of coral reef ecosystems of the central and western Pacific (see map) to the resource managers, policymakers, and public at domestic and international levels.

CREP's study area includes ~50 islands, atolls, and banks in the central western Pacific.
CREP's study area includes ~50 islands, atolls, and banks in the central western Pacific.

Integrated Research: The Whole Ecosystem

At Maug, which is part of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, a CREP diver conducts a survey of the benthos along 
                 a transect draped over corals of the genus Porites during a Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring 
                 Program (Pacific RAMP) cruise in the Mariana Archipelago. NOAA photo by Erin Looney.
At Maug, which is part of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, a CREP diver conducts a survey of the benthos along a transect draped over corals of the genus Porites during a Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) cruise in the Mariana Archipelago. NOAA photo by Erin Looney.

To inform the implementation of ecosystem-based management and conservation strategies, CREP leads a program of coral reef ecosystem assessment and long-term monitoring, benthic habitat mapping, oceanographic and water-quality studies, and applied research in the Hawaiian Archipelago, the Mariana Archipelago (Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), American Samoa, and the Pacific Remote Island Areas, as well as international efforts like the Coral Triangle Initiative.

With an interdisciplinary, integrated approach to research, CREP collects data about fishes, corals, algae, invertebrates, and microbes and the physical structure and chemical properties of their environments. This program includes work designed to expand understanding of the cryptic biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems and to assess the level and effect of major threats to coral reefs: bleaching and ocean acidification. CREP's research aids NOAA and other government agencies in meeting the mandates of the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 and various executive orders issued to ensure conservation and protection of the nation's coral reef ecosystems.

Background

Supported by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program, CREP leads the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) to advance understanding of coral reef ecosystems and reduce adverse effects of human activities. This comprehensive effort involves collaboration with scientific, private, government, and nongovernmental organizations at the local, state, federal, and international levels.

NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program is a partnership among the NOAA Line Offices working on coral reef issues: the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Ocean Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. The Coral Reef Conservation Program brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to supporting effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain, and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems.

In addition to its long-term monitoring program, CREP leads work to characterize the extent of and remove marine debris in the Hawaiian Archipelago in partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program and several other organizations. Derelict fishing gear, such as discarded nets, lines, and rope, is a significant part of marine debris. The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and its partners have conducted marine debris efforts on a regular basis for more than 15 years in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, removing more than 754 metric tons of derelict fishing gear there from 1996 to 2012. Work to reduce the amount of debris that enters U.S. coastal and marine environments is required by the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act of 2006

CREP also researches biological and ecosystem responses to ocean acidification under the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP). OAP was established under the Federal Ocean Acidification and Monitoring Act of 2009 to oversee and coordinate research, monitoring, and other activities consistent with the strategic research and implementation plan developed by an interagency working group on ocean acidification. CREP activities related to ocean acidification include collection of coral cores to track coral growth rates and of water samples to monitor carbonate chemistry and deployment and retrieval of systems that help assess long-term trends in carbonate accretion and invertebrate biodiversity.

The Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006 includes mandates for implementing fishery management plans (FMP), protecting essential fish habitats (EFH), and determining annual catch limits. CREP activities in the central and western Pacific may occur in areas identified as EFH for species managed by the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council under the Western Pacific FMP for Bottomfish and Seamount Fisheries Groundfish. This plan identifies EFH for seven species and life stages that may coincide with CREP activity areas; marine organisms managed per the Magnuson-Stevens Act in fisheries management plans involving the water column include highly migratory and pelagic fish species. Marine organisms managed per the Magnuson-Stevens Act on the ocean bottom include bottomfish and seamount groundfish, precious corals and coral reef ecosystems, and crustaceans.

CREP also has played a role in the ongoing assessment of NOAA Fisheries to determine whether to list 82 Caribbean and Indo-Pacific coral species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 Members of CREP served on the Biological Review Team (BRT) and as subject matter experts and coordinators that prepared the Status Review Report, released in April 2012, for these species. This report was independently peer reviewed and presents the BRT's examination of the status and extinction risk of the 82 candidate coral species.