Researchers at the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) are exploring scientifically sound approaches to understand, assess, monitor, restore and mitigate injured coral reefs. NCRI is recognized by NOAA as one of its external coral reef research institutes. NCRI’s management-oriented research is designed to provide solid information and research products designed to help understand, manage, and conserve these natural resources for generations to come.
Why We Care
Coral reefs possess the greatest ecological complexity and biodiversity among marine ecosystems and are invaluable economic and recreational resources. However, the health of coral reefs is threatened by numerous human-induced and natural stresses including: land-based sources of pollution, climate change (increased sea surface temperatures result in coral bleaching), over-harvesting of important reef fish and coral species, and storms.
Multiple stressors can combine to create a larger ecosystem effect that further degrades coral reef health. For instance, overharvesting of reef organisms that feed on algae, such as parrotfish and sea urchins, might allow for increased algal cover on the reef, smothering the corals and further compromising resistance to other threats. The degradation of coral reef ecosystems has progressed to the point where two key reef-building species of Caribbean/Atlantic coral, elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), have been listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
In response to the declining health of coral reefs worldwide, the National Coral Reef Institute was established by Congressional mandate in 1998 to offer a strong scientific focus and innovative approaches in all aspects of coral reef biology and restoration. NCRI is dedicated to:
- Identifying gaps in current scientific understanding of reefs,
- Providing scientific focus to emerging and innovative approaches, and
- Identifying, conducting, and funding theoretical and applied programs of coral reef research.
What We Are Doing
The National Coral Reef Institute has been conducting extensive research into the causes and consequences of reef decline since 1998. NCRI’s objectives include research and activities dealing with assessment, monitoring, and restoration of coral reefs, coupled with education and training of scientists, managers, and educators.
NCRI is devoted to enhancing management effectiveness through programs that:
- Identify critical threats to coral reefs that are region specific;
- Enhance flexibility in determining priorities and allocating funding;
- Focus on and respond to local, regional, and national management needs;
- Are subject to rigorous peer review; and
- Adapt to local socioeconomic, cultural, and management regimes.
The center receives Congressional funding through the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and is led by Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach, Florida. Partners include NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program.
What We Found
Over its 15 year history, NCRI has:
- Supported local management authority and coordination of stakeholders’ efforts to relocate damaging anchorages;
- Was a key supporter and manager of the Southeast Coral Reef Evaluation and Monitoring Project (SECREMP);
- Organized the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium;
- Assessed and restored injured reefs together with city, county, and state management agencies;
- Predicted and proved coral spawning for the first time in southeast Florida high-latitude coral;
- Produced maps of coral reef ecosystems in southeast Florida with management agencies; and
- Published the Coral Reefs of the USA book, which summarized the academic knowledge about U.S. coral reefs.
Benefits of Our Work
A hallmark of NCRI’s work has been dissemination of scientific information on coral reef assessment, monitoring, and restoration to members of the worldwide coral reef community of scientists, resource managers, technicians, and conservationists. The evaluation and synthesis of scientific information relevant to scientists and marine resource managers have specifically stated goals—initially developed through an international scientific conference and ultimately implemented through presentation and publication of findings, a Web presence, scientific advisory panels, boards, and workshops. NCRI’s staff scientists have produced over 125 scientific papers, numerous abstracts, and many technical reports. In addition, NCRI has been featured in national and international news articles over 50 times. NCRI scientists have leveraged funding to a level of approximately more than three leveraged dollars to every one federal dollar.