Coral reef ecosystems are among the most productive and diverse in the world. Countless species coexist because of the constant renewal of framework and structure created by reef-building organisms. Coral reefs serve as buffers from effects of storm activity on coastal features, and the natural chemical and biological breakdown of reef structures produces abundant sediments that nourish beaches. In many areas, reefs are an important economic resource, creating habitat for commercially and recreationally important species of fish and as a recreational locale for diving and tourism activities.
Coral reefs are impacted worldwide by a host of natural and human-induced factors. Natural and man-made climatic variations, including those from El Niño, heat, stress, and hurricane forces cause substantial damage to coral reefs. Dynamite and chemical fishing, anchor damage, dredging, sediment runoff due to deforestation and eutrophication, bleaching and disease can devastate coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs in the proximity of busy shipping lanes are also susceptible to ship groundings.
Globally, coral reefs are undergoing large-scale ecological and physical changes. Scientists and marine resource managers are exploring scientifically sound approaches to restore and mitigate damaged coral reefs. Progress has been gradual because of the complexity of tropical systems, the unpredictable occurrence of human impact and the extended time needed to monitor and assess recovery. Scientific solutions and intuitive quick fixes have provided some encouraging results, but additional sustainable approaches and technologies are needed for efforts to be successful. This is where NCRI sees its role.