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NOAA Awards University of Puerto Rico $450K to Examine Science to Protect Deep Water Caribbean Coral Reefs

NOAA has awarded the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (UPR-M) $451,081 through the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CRES) program to research and improve management understanding of Caribbean coral reefs at depths of 50 to 100 meters (156 to 330 feet), also called deep water, light-dependent coral reefs. The award is the first installment of a three-year, approximately $1.4 million grant.

Unlike the more well-known shallow tropical reefs, there is little available scientific information on the function and importance of deep water, light-dependent reefs. The grant to UPR-M is designed to address this gap in the Caribbean , employing a multidisciplinary team of scientists to enhance knowledge in three major areas: characterization of the community composition and structure of deep reefs, the connectivity between deep and shallow reefs, and the vulnerability of deep reefs to human-induced stress.

Key grant outputs will consist of new scientific findings, and will allow scientists to synthesize existing information about these reefs as background for the new findings. The research program will also generate new tools for coral reef assessment and management of deep, light-dependent reefs.

Deep water, light-dependent coral reefs are usually more isolated from human impacts than shallow-water reefs because of their relative inaccessibility and remoteness from land. The relative isolation of deep water coral ecosystems may allow these deeper reefs to serve as refuge areas to species depleted in shallow coral reefs. Deep reefs are also believed to harbor a higher proportion of rare or endemic species compared to shallower reef environments.

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