Increasing Knowledge about and Conservation of Coral Reef Ecosystems, Regionally and Internationally
Carol R. Fretwell
NCRI facilitates conferences and meetings to evaluate and synthesize scientific information relevant to scientists and marine resource managers, on both regional and global levels.
International Conference on Scientific Aspects of Coral Reef Assessment, Monitoring, and Restoration: One of NCRI's first projects, and one of its most widely recognized products, was its International Conference on Scientific Aspects of Coral Reef Assessment, Monitoring, and Restoration, in April of 1999 in Fort Lauderdale. It drew 494 coral reef scientists, resource managers, technicians, and conservationists from 34 countries, Guam, Puerto Rico, CNMI, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2001, a peer-reviewed proceedings was published in the Bulletin of Marine Science.
In addition to 140 papers accepted for oral presentation, 130 scientific posters were also presented in 8 special and 10 general sessions. Key note speaker Sally Yozell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere of the U. S. Department of Commerce, spoke on "The U.S. Commitment to Coral Reefs, Both Physically and Fiscally." Plenary speakers Robert W. Buddemeier, Kansas Geological Survey and Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ) Core Project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program ("Is It Time to Give Up?"); Terrence Done, Australian Institute of Marine Science and Cooperative Research Centre for Ecologically Sustainable Development of the Great Barrier Reef ("Useful Science for Coral Reef Management: The Cooperative Research Centre Model"); Mark Hay, Georgia Institute of Technology ("Basic Processes Structuring Coral Reefs: Do We Know What to Monitor and Why?"); and Nancy Knowlton, University of California at San Diego, the Scripps Institution of Technology, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama ("Who are the Players on Coral Reefs and Does It Matter?"), set the tone for the meeting.
Outcomes of the conference were reported in the summary article "Experts List Quick Action among Needs of World's Declining Coral Reefs," subsequently published in Earth System Monitor.
Co-sponsors for the three-day international conference included: NOAA's National Ocean Service and its National Marine Fisheries Science Center; the Broward County Department of Natural Resource Protection; LAW Engineering & Environmental Services, Inc.; the Ocean Research and Education Foundation Inc.; the National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; Florida Sea Grant; the Florida Institute of Oceanography. ReefBase and the International Society for Reef Studies endorsed the scientific program of the meeting.
9th International Coral Reef Symposium: NCRI scientists gave nine oral and nine scientific poster presentations at the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in October of 2000 in Bali. Held only once every 4 years, the ICRS is the prestigious international scientific meeting conducted under the auspices of the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS). The previous meeting, in 1996, had been held in Panama.
NCRI's executive director also served as co-convener of two mini-symposia, each of which was composed of more than two dozen oral presentations by scientists from Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, the Netherlands, the U.K., Sweden, the Philippines, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand, Kenya, and the United States. NCRI staff created and maintained the meeting's interactive web site for more than a year. The web site provided all conference information and allowed interactive registration and abstract submittal for all 1,300 attendees from around the world. NCRI also maintained a booth display which generated much interest in its projects, especially from scientists and students from several other countries.
Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative: In 2003, NCRI was asked to host the organizational meetings for the formation of the Southeast Florida Action Strategy Team (SEFAST) to create the local action strategy (LAS) for coral reefs north of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This action came about as a direct result of Resolution One, adopted at the Eighth Meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, October 2-3, 2002, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As mandated by the resolution, representatives of federal, state, and county agencies met to create the structure leading to the formation of four focus groups that would eventually develop the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI). In addition to the initial two-day organizational meeting, NCRI also hosted the first stakeholder workshop.
NCRI continues to support the activities and projects of SEFCRI in several ways. For the working group focusing on the Land-Based Sources of Pollution (LBSP), NCRI provides meeting facilities for its international technical advisory committee and various other subgroups, membership among its project leads, and other support as needed. Similarly, for the Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts working group, NCRI provides leadership in one of four team leaders, occasionally provides facilities for various of its subgroup meetings, and two of the project leads to develop guidelines for rapid response to, and restoration of, coral reef injuries in Southeast Florida. NCRI personnel also provide input and membership in the Awareness and Appreciation working group.
US Coral Reef Task Force: Through its attendance and active participation at each of the 13 meetings of the United States Coral Reef Task Force and its working partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on several reef-related projects in Florida, NCRI scientists have been invited authors to both reports made to Congress on the status of U.S. coral reefs: The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States: 2002, and 2004, published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Ocean Service/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
10th International Coral Reef Symposium: In 2004, NCRI participated in the 10th ICRS in several ways. NCRI scientists co-chaired a mini-symposia, made 14 oral and 8 poster presentations, exhibited in one of only 20 booths, participated in both Opening and Closing ceremonies, and led the successful United States bid to host the 11th ICRS in July of 2008 in Fort Lauderdale. The latter was accomplished with the endorsement and support of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) and Governor Jeb Bush of Florida.
NOAA Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research Meeting: Ncri is one of five coral reef programs administered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR), which include three Congressionally directed programs and two long-term coral reef ecosystem study (CRES) programs. For three days in March of 2005, NCRI hosted the third annual meeting of these programs, convened by NOAA/CSCOR program officials. Program activities of the five, NCRI, the Hawaiian Coral Reef Initiative (HCRI), the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute (CCRI), and the CRES programs in Micronesia and the Caribbean, were reviewed. Previous annual meetings were in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
NCRI's coral reef projects were spotlighted on the first day. Formal presentations were made in the morning, detailing NCRI's research results and progress within the topics of assessment, monitoring, and restoration. NCRI's reef mapping activities were highlighted along with outcomes of local, regional, and global monitoring work. A selection of NCRI-developed software was highlighted which aids scientists and managers in processing information about coral reefs. Reports on reef restoration projects emphasized the need to develop scientifically sound means to rehabilitate injured reef ecosystems. Many scientific posters were also on display which described NCRI work in depth. In the afternoon, NOAA and NCRI personnel did SCUBA dives at a number of NCRI's local reef research sites.
On the second and third days, a variety of science and program presentations were made by NOAA and related programs. The meeting concluded with in-depth discussions on optimal directions for coral reef science in order to facilitate improved management of coral reef ecosystems. Representatives who spoke during the meeting were in attendance from eight NOAA agencies and two other NOAA programs headquartered in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys.
11th International Coral Reef Symposium: A group of coral reef scientists and managers from the United States, headed by the NCRI Executive Director, won a bid to host 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in July 2008 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It will have been over 30 years since the ICRS was held on the U.S. mainland. Every four years the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) convenes as a major scientific conference to provide the latest knowledge about coral reefs worldwide. Natural scientists, resource managers and users, conservationists, economists, and educators meet to advance coral reef science, management, and conservation. The International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS), the largest society focused on coral reefs worldwide, officially sanctions ICRS meetings.
Stakeholders, including reef scientists, managers, conservationists, fishers, and divers, will find an opportunity at the 11th ICRS in 2008 to assimilate the most recent and best scientific information available about these precious and irreplaceable natural resources. The Symposium goal is better understanding of coral reef ecosystems and consequently effective conservation and management strategies. The Symposium will promote the dissemination of knowledge about reef sustainability and resilience, particularly important to many nations who depend upon coral reefs for their economy and food supply. The U.S. and South Florida venue will also provide convenient access for experts and policymakers to visit and study reef systems in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Over 2,500 attendees are expected from the U.S. and international marine science and management communities.
REEFS FOR THE FUTURE is the scientific theme of the Symposium, highlighting one of our most important national and international treasures: coral reefs. Degradation due to pollution, overfishing, and climate change, threaten destruction of these ecosystems on an unprecedented global scale. Scientists, policymakers, conservationists, and managers are exercising leadership in developing knowledge and implementing science-based strategies to address the crisis. Key concepts of coral reefs, including reef structure and function, pattern and process, ecosystem-based management, and human interactions, will be a focus of the meeting program. Plenary speakers will summarize current scientific knowledge about reefs.
Mini-Symposia and field workshops will be thematic, question driven, and define specific science-based outcomes as well as management strategies. Field trips to diverse reef types will help illustrate specific reef types, environmental problems, and management successes. The results of the 11th ICRS will be timely and readily accessible in a variety of web-based, CD, and traditional formats.
Composed of a core group of coral reef scientists and managers who serve as committee chairs, the 11th ICRS Local Organizing Committee (LOC) includes both the Executive and Associate Directors of NCRI within its membership, including chair of the LOC. Other committee and subcommittees members include broad national and international representation from the management, coral reef science, and education communities. The LOC has the full endorsement of the U.S. government and the State of Florida to host the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in 2008.
The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF), composed of representatives of 12 federal agencies and 7 governors' offices with jurisdiction over U.S. coral reefs, endorsed a proposal for the U.S. to host the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in 2008 at its meeting of February 25, 2004, in Washington, DC.
The State of Florida has the only extensive shallow tropical coral reef formations in the continental United States and the only barrier reef system in North America. These reefs extend from near Stuart, on the Atlantic coast, through Southeast Florida and the Florida Keys, to the Dry Tortugas, west of Key West, in the Gulf of Mexico. The State recognizes that coral reefs are significant, unique natural resources about which information is needed for effective conservation and management, and is a full sponsor of the 11th ICRS.