Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) Project
The Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) project investigates the health and resilience of coral reefs to future ecosystem changes, including climate change. The primary purpose is to provide data to inform public policy and best management practices.
Coral reefs provide important ecosystem services (e.g., shoreline protection) and support economically viable industries such as fisheries and tourism. These reefs are stressed by disease, overfishing, pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification. The CREST project examines the interactions between these stressors while improving the understanding of the current status and function of coral reefs and investigating likely future changes in reef ecosystems in the Dry Tortugas, Virgin Islands, and Biscayne National Parks, and selected areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The primary goals of CREST are to improve understanding and information about coral health in the region; improve the ability to forecast future changes; and guide management decisions.
Project staff are:
- mapping and characterizing coral reefs and habitats;
- identifying responses of corals to climate and sea level changes;
- identifying causes of coral disease;
- evaluating threats by ocean acidification; and
- quantifying trends in biogenic calcification.
In climate-specific research, project staff are examining the calcium carbonate skeletons of corals to determine both historic and future environmental changes; variations in the chemical composition of coral skeletons record environmental conditions, such as temperature, salinity, and pH. This data will provide information about the correlation between environmental change and the ability of coral to grow, especially with regard to the effects of ocean acidification and rising sea levels.
Outcomes and Conclusions
Through this project, the U.S. Geological Survey is contributing information about the effects of climate change on coral reef health and resilience, and providing a framework to examine the effects of interacting stressors on a valuable habitat.
Gregg, R. M. (2010). Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) Project [Case study on a project of the U.S. Geological Survey's St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/coral-reef-ecosystem-studies-crest-project (Last updated April 2010)