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Integrated Coral Reef Ecosystem Assessments in the U.S-affiliated Pacific Islands. PIFSC External Review, June 24, 2008. Vision Statement.

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Integrated Coral Reef Ecosystem Assessments in the U.S-affiliated Pacific Islands

PIFSC External Review, June 24, 2008


Vision Statement

CRED leads an integrated, interdisciplinary, ecosystem-based program of research, mapping, and long-term monitoring of coral reef ecosystems of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands to promote conservation and management through innovative and collaborative science of the highest integrity.



  • Climate change
      • Ocean warming – coral bleaching and disease
      • Ocean acidification – calcification rates, biodiversity shifts
      • Sea-level rise – drowning reefs and coastal infrastructure?
      • Storm tracks and intensities
      • Ocean circulation – larval transport/recruitment
  • Local Threats
      • Overfishing - trophic and ecosystem shifts
      • Pollution and marine debris – habitat degradation
      • Coastal development and sedimentation – habitat degradation
      • Invasive species – ecosystem shifts
      • Recreational overuse – trophic and ecosystem shifts
  • Global threats significantly impact local/regional ecosystems
  • Local management requires knowledge of regional and global processes and threats

Pacific RAMP

Integrated Ecosystem Observations of ~50 islands and atolls

Benthic Habitat Mapping

Oceanography & Water Quality Monitoring






Long-term Monitoring of Fish, Corals, Algae, Macroinvertebrates, Microbes

Integrated Ecosystem Assessments, Reporting, and Modeling


Comparative analyses across diverse biogeographic, environmental, and anthropogenic gradients


Ecological Observations

  • Rapid Ecological Assessments (REA)
    • Fish, corals, invertebrates, algae, microbes
    • Abundance/density, size, species richness, % benthic cover, disease prevalence
    • ~200-1,000 m2
  • Towed-diver Surveys (TDS)
    • Benthic composition/condition
      • % cover of live or stressed coral, macroalgae
      • Habitat complexity
    • Abundance of large fish, macroinvertebrates
      • fish (>50 cm TL), turtles, seals, cetaceans
      • COTS, giant clams, sea cucumbers, urchins
    • ~25,000 m2
  • Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS)
  • Ecological Acoustic Recorders (EARs)

Other corals




P. compressa



Mean coral cover MHI (9.0 ± 2.3%) comparable to NWHI (10.4 ± 2.0%)

Distribution, composition, abundance (density/cover), and size of corals over time


Coral & Algal Disease

BLE: Bleaching

SGA: Skeletal growth anomalies

WSY: Acute tissue loss

TLS: Subacute tissue loss

TRE: Trematodiasis

HYP: Hyper-pigmented irritations

EFI: Endolithic fungal infection

OTH: Other

Distribution, type, and prevalence of disease by coral and algal species over time



Algal composition, both in the NWHI and more broadly across the Pacific region, shows distinct biogeographic patterns. Note different regions of the NWHI: North, Mid, South.

From Vroom & Page (2006)

From Schils and Vroom (in review)



Density of COTS/ha

Distribution and abundance of key macroinvertebrates over time


Reef Fish Over Time





gaps future directions
Gaps/Future Directions
  • Integrated Ecosystem Assessments
    • Improve assessment of human dimension
    • Improve understanding of ecosystem linkages
      • Ecosystem Modeling during later stages of CAMEO
    • Improve temporal resolution and extend depth of monitoring
      • EARs – continuous biotic & anthropogenic monitoring
      • AUV and BotCam – monitor/map deep habitats & resources
    • Improve linkages between science and management
      • Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Reports
  • Comparative analyses across Pacific Islands region
    • CAMEO - Ecological impacts of human activities and climate
  • Ecological Impacts of Ocean Acidification
    • Calcification plates, coring, improved size class, ultrasound
  • Biodiversity Assessments – inverts, algae, microbes
    • CoML- CReefs, ARMS, and molecular tools

Ecosystem Assessments

Outline for Island & Archipelagic Comparison Chapters

  • Geopolitical Context – improve human dimension
  • Survey Effort
  • Benthic Habitat Mapping and Characterization
  • Oceanography and Water Quality
  • Coral and Coral Disease
  • Algae and Algal Disease
  • Benthic Macroinvertebrates - CReefs
  • Reef Fish
  • Island Summary & Integration – CAMEO proposal

Linking science to management:

  • American Samoa reef fisheries management
  • Scientific bases for development of network of MPAs

Presently working on Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Reports for Hawaiian Archipelago & Mariana Archipelago

To be released at ICRS: available for download at:


Biodiversity Assessments

Census of Marine Life

Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems (CReefs)

Assessment and monitoring of coral reef biodiversity with a focus primarily on understudied, lesser known, or cryptic invertebrate, algal, and microbial species.

Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS): systematic collectors to monitor indices of invertebrate diversity using molecular techniques.