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United States Geological Survey (USGS) Cooperative Program

The foundation for this program was laid during a USGS-hosted Workshop at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa on March 18-20, 1998. The workshop included 25 scientists from the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), the State of Hawai‘i and leading academic and research institutions. The results of the workshop are contained in a white paper entitled America‘s Coral Reefs: A Program for Mapping, Research, and Assessment to Insure Vitality, Protect Resources, and Understand Change.

The objective of the workshop was to provide a forum that would identify the important research issues that the USGS should be addressing in coral reef habitats over the subsequent 5 years. Existing knowledge about coral reef habitats was reviewed. The Coral Reef Workshop participants identified three frontiers of investigation:

1. Mapping and assessment of the American coral reef habitats.

2. Fundamental research into the natural changes inherent in coral reef systems.

3. Identification of threshold tolerances and the reaction of coral reef systems to stress.

The following four over-arching recommendations capture the essence of the workshop proceedings:

1. A strong need exists for baseline information showing the regional distribution of America‘s coral reef habitats. The location, geometry, and distribution of coral cover need to be mapped using state-of-the-art aerial and ship-borne spectral photographic, laser, and acoustic imaging systems to produce digital and atlas-format maps. Further, these maps must be verified by adequate ground-truth data to the extent that environmental determinations can be made with confidence.

2. There is an immediate need to improve the understanding of change induced by natural processes through studies of the life cycles of reefs to determine the important variables that control reef sediment production, algae growth, and coral density and diversity - both on historic and geologic scales.

3. Increasing population and associated stresses along America‘s tropical coasts require understanding of how coral reefs will respond to anthropogenic change. Studies of impacted reefs should be conducted to develop an understanding of how increases in siltation from construction, urbanization and agriculture, as well as contaminants from point and non-point sources will affect coral recruitment, growth, and survivability.

4. Coral reef studies require a multidisciplinary approach using the expertise from all fields of marine and earth science. No single organization houses sufficient expertise to address the important reef issues, and we recommend that studies by the USGS/Department of the Interior be supplemented by expertise within universities, state agencies and other‘Federal agencies.

Recommendations of the Workshop participants were implemented and a successful USGS program has developed in Hawai‘i. CRAMP has participated in this work as partners with a focus on the biological aspects of coral reef assessment, monitoring and mapping. The initial focus was directed to the south shore of Moloka‘i, where an extensive and complex fringing reef has been subjected to considerable impact from sedimentation due to poor land use patterns. Later projects expanded efforts to West Maui.

CRAMP was heavily involved in part of this multi-disciplinary effort headed by Dr. Michael Fields of the Coastal Marine Geology Program, to understand the impacts controlling the reefs off South Moloka‘i and West Maui. As part of the CRAMP biological investigation, long-term monitoring sites have been tracked since 1999 at five South Moloka‘i sites. Coral recruitment data has been collected and analyzed at sites on both Moloka‘i and Maui. In an attempt to understand larval recruitment, CRAMP has assisted in following current patterns in these areas. This effort has yielded several publications including:

Storlazzi CD, Field ME, Jokiel PL, Rodgers KS, Brown E and Dykes JD (2005) A model for wave control on coral breakage and species distribution: Southern Moloka‘i, Hawai‘i. Coral Reefs 24: 43-55.

Rodgers KS, Jokiel PL, Smith WR, Farrell F and Uchino K (2005). Biological survey in support of the USGS turbidity and sediment baseline survey on South Moloka‘i reef flat, April 2005. Final Report Submitted to: United States Geological Survey. Open File Report 2005-1361. 35 pp.

Friedlander AM and Rodgers KS (In press) Fishes. In: South Moloka‘i Atlas. United States Geological Survey

Brown EK, Jokiel PL, Rodgers KS and Smith WR (In press) Changes in coral populations. In: South Moloka‘i Atlas. United States Geological Survey.

Jokiel PL (In press) In: South Moloka‘i Atlas. United States Geological Survey.


Last Update: 04/21/2008

By: Lea Hollingsworth

Hawai‘i Coral Reef Assessment & Monitoring Program

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology

P.O. Box 1346

Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744

808-236-7440 phone

808-236-7443 fax