Save coral reefs
There are two types of stresses associated with reef systems: natural and human-induced. The effects of these stresses can range from negligible to catastrophic. Reefs display a surprising adaptation to short-term natural catastrophic events, such as hurricanes, and usually recover to normal community structure. These natural events can even be considered beneficial in regards to biological diversity. Severe storm events on land can topple large trees. This opens up the forest to recolonization and results in a greater diversity of plants. This same process occurs with storm impacts to reefs. The damaged area of the reef is often recolonized by a greater diversity of organisms than existed before the storm. In the long term this event benefits the ecological integrity of the reef.
However, reefs are not well adapted to survive exposure to ...view middle of the document...
Roadways, parking lots and buildings consist of impervious surfaces. These surfaces increase runoff rates and carry with those waters mixtures of dissolved substances to surface waters. The surface waters in any watershed eventually discharge into coastal or near-coastal waters. These waters can then impact coral communities associated with these discharge points. Thus, activities occurring in distant locations have impacts to reefs which are far away from these activities.
There have been increasing efforts to establish better management and conservation measures to protect the diversity of these biologically rich areas. Management practices have historically focused on the coral reef proper and not considered associated communities, such as seagrasses, mangroves, mudflats or defined watersheds (which transport complex mixtures in their waters), in a meaningful manner. This attempted to manage the reef in isolation, like an island.
Current management efforts recognize the importance of including reefs as part of a larger system, where integrated coastal zone management tools and watershed concepts can be used in the development of comprehensive management and conservation plans. One example is where EPA has joined with NOAA and the state of Florida in the establishment of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) . The Marine Sanctuary operates under a broad-based management plan intended to enhance the sustainability of the Florida Keys reefs. Other important efforts in coral reef conservation and management include the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and the International and the U.S. Coral Reef Initiatives.
When reefs are considered as part of a larger watershed, the recognization of the complexity of environmental stressors can be understood. Management plans can be developed to lessen impacts to mangroves, seagrasses and the reef ecosystem, based upon scientific data and a better understanding of the system. EPA is in the process of developing guidance for a watershed approach to coral ecosystem protection.