Coral Reef Ecosystem Division

In support of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program, the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) conducts extensive research to support management and conservation of coral reef ecosystems in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. Research activities include interdisciplinary Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEAs) and long-term monitoring, benthic habitat mapping, oceanographic observations, and more. In leading the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (RAMP), CRED collaborates with federal, state, and territorial agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and academic partners to conduct biennial surveys of coral reefs throughout the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI), Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), the Territories of Guam and American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIA). Using standardized methods for IEAs at more than 50 islands and atolls across diverse gradients of biogeography, environmental conditions, and human activity, Pacific RAMP enables comparative analysis that improves understanding of the complex processes influencing the health of coral reef ecosystems throughout the region. IEAs provide essential baseline information by which to assess, predict, and mitigate impacts of climate change, fishing, pollution, and other stressors on coral reef ecosystems. The knowledge gained is shared with local, regional, national, and international resource managers and stakeholders to improve decision making for the long-term conservation and management of coral reef resources. CRED also conducts research to better assess and predict accumulations of marine debris affecting coral reef ecosystems and leads multiagency projects to remove debris from reefs and shorelines.

The CRED is organized into five thematic program areas:

Coral Reef Ecosystem Division FY 2008

CRED has 67 staff members, including 9 federal employees, 56 employees of the University of Hawaii's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), and other staff. Grants—primarily to JIMAR—accounted for the largest CRED expenditures in FY 2008.

Key 2008 Accomplishments

Challenges, Problems, and Limitations

The primary challenge for CRED is to provide timely, unbiased scientific information on the condition of coral reef ecosystems in the Pacific Islands Region and processes influencing them. The information must be easily interpreted and presented in a manner useful to resource managers, policy makers, and other key stakeholders. To meet the challenge, CRED needs to continue long-term reef monitoring, integration of ecosystem observations, and studies of reef resources and processes across the Pacific Islands. These tasks will require a sustained commitment of funding and extensive access to NOAA research vessels. The Division is also challenged to improve methods used to identify, understand, and explain complex spatial and temporal patterns and relationships across multidisciplinary biological and environmental data sets.

Future Focus and Direction

In response to a new Roadmap for the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, CRED will focus on improving responsiveness to local management needs for scientific information to address impacts of climate change, fishing, land-based pollution, and other forces. To help facilitate better communication, CRED will assign scientific liaisons at the Center to work closely with resource managers in each of the six areas (MHI, NWHI, American Samoa, Guam, CNMI, and the PRIA) and investigate the detailing of CRED staff to work on location with management agencies in American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI.

CRED will produce coral reef ecosystem monitoring reports for the Mariana Archipelago, the Hawaiian Archipelago, and the PRIA over the next 3 years, using the recently completed American Samoa report as a template. CRED will continue to organize Pacific-wide integrated ecosystem observations into relational geospatial databases to enable comparative spatial and temporal analyses of marine ecosystems across the Pacific Islands Region. CRED will also investigate the role of ecosystem biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem resiliency.

Specifically, in 2009 CRED will: