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Tracking Coral Larvae Sources Helps Protection Plan Development

NOAA investigators and their partners embarked on a year-long study to determine the origins of coral polyps and fish species seeding the reefs of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam so that the islands’ officials can take customized measures to protect them from overharvesting or other damage. Using  drifting sensors coupled with a computer model that then identifies important coral hotspots, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researchers’ data will help determine the sources of the larvae that sustain those reefs.

Many corals and reef fish reproduce by casting eggs and larvae into ocean currents where they drift until mature enough to settle down and attach to a surface.  Initial results suggest that the Marianas often seed their neighbors to the north and that larvae spawned in the southern part of the archipelago are also swept away from their “birth” reefs.

The six partners held project kick-off meetings in February 2012.

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