With levels of biodiversity rivaling those of tropical rainforests, the complex framework and structure created by reef-building corals and their calcified skeletons are a unique and irreplaceable natural resource. Globally, coral reefs provide enormous direct and indirect economic benefits - in the United States alone the direct and indirect economic value of coral reefs is valued in the billions of dollars annually. They serve as important fishery resources and physical barriers to coastal erosion, offer recreational and tourist areas, and are repositories to a myriad of described and undescribed species of great value to humankind.
Yet coral reefs are rapidly being degraded by pollution, overfishing, climate change, coastal development, ship-related injuries, recreational overuse and the introduction of exotic species. An estimated 25 percent of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed and, if no action is taken to reduce threats, costly additional losses are predicted in the coming decades.
The mission of the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) is to be a center of excellence for management-relevant coral reef research and is advanced through its status as part of the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography at Nova Southeastern University, which provides administration, facilities, and support within an academic research university setting. Knowledge, ideas, and experience in all relevant disciplines are consolidated, expanded and used to help identify and solve the challenges that beset our coral environments. NCRI seeks to provide a locus where academia, government, and commerce may communicate, plan, and act to preserve, restore, conserve, and manage these fragile ecosystems.
NCRI's research is directed at building comprehensive baseline information for scientific and management use by conducting targeted research into aspects of coral reef assessment, monitoring, and restoration. In this process, information is collected and evaluated, often in collaboration with national and international partners and funding agencies. The results of this work are already improving the nation's ability to determine the status of its coral reefs and emerging trends that might affect their future as a viable resource. NCRI will continue to strategically target areas of coral reef research that have particular relevance during these times of global climate change and an increasingly problematic human ecological footprint.
A hallmark of NCRI has also been the efficient dissemination of important scientific information and research or computational tools to members of the worldwide scientific community, resource managers and conservationists concerned with coral reefs. This evaluation, synthesis and sharing of relevant scientific information and tools are being achieved through major international scientific conferences, presentations and publications, as well as an expanded presence on the Internet which allows access to NCRI's latest research and software.
Despite being a very young organization, NCRI scientists have already produced more than 70 scientific papers, nearly 100 abstracts, and 35 technical reports. In addition to funds from the U.S. Congress, administered through the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, NCRI has secured substantial additional funding from other federal, state, county and corporate sources which complement and augment its assessment, monitoring and restoration efforts.
Coral reefs are not only beautiful but also important economic resources that provide protection from coastal erosion, make wonderful tourist destinations and offer a home to a myriad of species of marine life. By conducting management-oriented research, NCRI hopes to do its part to help conserve these invaluable assets for generations to come.
Richard E. Dodge, Ph.D., Executive Director Bernhard M. Riegl, Ph.D., Associate Director