Ecosystem Science and Conservation Working Group


Threatened by various natural and human stresses, including nutrient overenrichment, overfishing, and increases in sedimentation rates, coral reef ecosystems are deteriorating worldwide. Increasingly severe bleaching events, disease outbreaks, anthropogenic alterations of local and global environments, and the synergistic effects of these stresses are thought to contribute to this decline. Strategic research on coral reef ecosystems provides managers with tools to improve the integrity and sustainable use of these ecosystems. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) and its many partners are conducting short-term strategic and long-term ecosystem-based research to:

  • Understand coral reef community dynamics and the impacts of human-caused and natural stressors;
  • Identify possible management strategies to mitigate negative impacts; and
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of these management actions after they are implemented.

Strategic research enhances national, regional, and local capabilities to measure, understand, analyze, and forecast ecological change in response to stressors. Targeted research answers specific questions and provides coastal and ocean managers with the tools needed to provide effective management and protection of local coral reef resources.

Research has improved knowledge of both global coral reef coverage and coral health. Coral disease and restoration research provides information to resource managers on the causes, predisposing factors, and effects of diseases of coral reef organisms. Other key research activities focus on understanding population connectivity of reef organisms and coral disease to provide fundamental knowledge to guide management efforts and design marine protected areas.