Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Project
Project Status: This project began in January 2000 and was completed in April 2013
We are monitoring the distribution, abundance, and size of reef fishes and macro-invertebrates and mapping habitats in the Caribbean. The work from this long-term project will help coastal managers understand what natural resources exist inside and outside the marine protected area boundaries and the condition of these resources so they can make informed marine-use and policy decisions.
Why We Care
Corals are in decline worldwide, and many of the responsible factors are man-made. Many fish species are under stress because of pollution and over-fishing. Managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) can only make sound decisions about the coral and fish areas they manage if they understand the location and abundance of the area’s resources.
What We Are Doing
Since 2000, we have been collecting field data and relating it to habitat maps and bathymetric models that can be used to predict the distribution of species and communities. The information is used to determine coral hot spots, investigate National Park Service boundaries, detect the presence and abundance of invasive lionfish, track bleaching and coral diseases, delineate essential fish habitats, assist with stock assessments of important commercial fish, and manage MPAs. By understanding where rich and diverse species hot spots are likely to occur, NCCOS can measure the efficacy of marine zoning strategies (e.g., placement of no-fishing, anchoring, or snorkeling locations) and determine which locations are most suitable for establishing MPAs.
Our specific goals are to:
Spatially characterize and monitor the distribution, abundance, and size of both reef fishes and macro-invertebrates (e.g., conch and lobster), and diadema (sea urchin)
Relate this information to in-situ data collected on water quality and associated habitat parameters
Use this information to establish the knowledge base necessary for enacting management decisions in a spatial setting
Establish and reassess the efficacy of those management decisions
Develop standardized data collection protocols to enable quantification and comparison of trends in abundance and distribution of reef-associated species among locations.
The knowledge of the current status of fish/macro-invertebrate communities coupled with longer term monitoring will enable management efficiency to be evaluated, which is essential for establishing future management policies and actions.
Regions of Study: Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands
Primary Contacts: Kimberly Roberson, John Christensen
Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management
Related NCCOS Center: CCMA
Data Collections and Related Websites
- Friedlander, A.M., C.F.G. Jeffrey, S.D. Hile, S.J. Pittman, M.E. Monaco and C. Caldow (eds.). 2013. Coral reef
ecosystems of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: Spatial and temporal patterns in fish and benthic communities (2001-
2009). NOAA Technical Memorandum 152. Silver Spring, MD. 150 pp.
- Eakin, C.M., J.A. Morgan, S.F.Heron, T.B.Smith, G. Liu et al. 2010. Caribbean Corals in Crisis: Record Thermal Stress, Bleaching, and Mortality in 2005. PLoS ONE 5(11): e13969. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013969
- • Pittman, S.J., S.D. Hile, C.F.G. Jeffrey, R. Clark, K. Woody, B.D. Herlach, C. Caldow, M.E. Monaco and R. Appeldoorn. 2010. Coral reef ecosystems of Reserva Natural La Parguera (Puerto Rico): Spatial and temporal patterns in fish and benthic communities (2001-2007). NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 107. Silver Spring, MD. 202 pp.
- • Clark, R., C.F.G. Jeffrey, K. Woody, Z. Hillis-Starr and M. Monaco. 2009. Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Coral Bleaching Around Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Bulletin of Marine Science, 84(2): 167-182, 2009. Contact Randy.Clark@noaa.gov or Kimberly.Roberson@noaa.gov for a copy of the article.
- Pittman, S.J., S.D. Hile, C.F.G. Jeffrey, C. Caldow, M.S. Kendall, M.E. Monaco and Z. Hillis-Starr. 2008. Fish assemblages and benthic habitats of Buck Island Reef National Monument (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands) and the surrounding seascape: A characterization of spatial and temporal patterns. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 71. Silver Spring, MD. 96 pp.
- Monaco, M.E., A.M. Friedlander, C. Caldow, J.D. Christensen, C. Rogers, J. Beets, J. Miller, and R. Boulon. 2007. Characterizing Reef Fish Populations and Habitats within and Outside the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument: A Lesson in MPA Design. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 2007, 14, 33-40. Contact Mark.Monaco@noaa.gov for a digital copy of the report.
- Pittman S.J., J. Christensen , C. Caldow, C. Menza and M.E. Monaco. 2007a. Predictive mapping of fish species richness across shallow-water seascapes of the U.S. Caribbean. Ecological Modelling 204, 9-21. Contact Simon.Pittman@noaa.gov for a copy of the report.
- Pittman, S.J., C. Caldow, S. Davidson Hile and M.E. Monaco. 2006. Poster: Explaining patterns in abundance of juvenile fish using Caribbean mangroves: a multi-scale seascape approach. 2006. First International Symposium on Mangroves as Fish Habitat. Poster Presentation, Miami, Florida, April 19-21, 2006.
- Clark, R., M.E. Monaco, R.S. Appeldoorn and B. Roque. 2005. Fish habitat utilization in a Puerto Rico coral reef ecosystem. In (R.L. Creswell, Ed.) Proc. 56th Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, British Virgin Islands, November 2003, pages 467-486. Contact Randy.Clark@noaa.gov for a digital copy of the report.
- Jeffrey, C.F.G., R. Clark, K. Woody, C. Menza, C. Caldow and M.E. Monaco. 2005. Coral bleaching and recovery observed at Buck Island, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, October and December, 2005. Online Biogeography Branch Report, Silver Spring, MD. Contact Kimberly.Roberson@noaa.gov for a copy of the report.
- Kendall, M.S., J.D. Christensen, C. Caldow, M. Coyne, C. Jeffrey, M. Monaco, W. Morrison and Z. Hillis-Starr. 2004. The influence of bottom type and shelf position on biodiversity of tropical fish inside a recently enlarged marine reserve. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 14: 113-132. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a digital copy of the report.
- Christensen, J.D., C. Jeffrey, M.E. Monaco, C. Caldow, M.S. Kendall and R.S. Appledoorn. 2003. Cross-shelf habitat utilization patterns of reef fishes in southwestern Puerto Rico. Gulf and Caribbean Research 14: 9-27. Contact email@example.com for a digital copy of the report.
- Kendall, M.S., J.D. Christensen, and Z. Hillis-Starr. 2003. Multi-scale data used to analyze the spatial distribution of French grunts, Haemulon flavolineatum, relative to hard and soft bottom in a benthic landscape. Environmental Biology of Fishes 66: 19-26. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a digital copy of the report.
- Monaco, M.E., J.D. Christensen, A.M. Friedlander, M.S. Kendall and C. Caldow. 2003. Quantifying habitat utilization patterns of U.S. Caribbean and Hawaii reef fish to define marine protected area boundaries: the coupling of GIS and ecology. In Proc. 13th Biennial Coastal Zone Conference, Baltimore, MD, July 13-17, 2003.