An official website of the United States government. Here's how you knowHere's how you know
Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.
Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.
Latest Earthquake | Chat Share
The specific objectives of this project are to identify and describe the processes that are important in determining rates of coral-reef construction. How quickly the skeletons of calcifying organisms accumulate to form massive barrier-reef structure is determined by processes of both construction (how fast organisms grow and reproduce) and destruction (how fast reefs break down by mechanical, chemical, and biological means).
Ecosystem-wide study of seafloor erosion in the Florida Keys Coral Reef Tract
How dynamic ocean conditions affect calcifying organisms today
By combining our research activities involving mapping, monitoring, and retrospectively investigating reef processes such as calcification, reef metabolism, and microbial cycling, we will reveal linkages among them and establish connections to ecosystem services or outputs including reef edification, seawater chemistry, sand production, and habitat construction. Our work addresses several key issues related to the current status and potential declining health and resilience of shallow-water reef communities in the U.S. Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Florida Keys. Improved understanding and information resulting from our work will help guide policies and best management practices to preserve and restore U.S. coral reef resources.
The specific objectives of this project are to identify and describe the processes that are important in determining rates of coral-reef construction. How quickly the skeletons of calcifying organisms accumulate to form massive barrier-reef structure is determined by processes of both construction (how fast organisms grow and reproduce) and destruction (how fast reefs break down by mechanical, chemical, and biological means). The components of our project represent multiple disciplines working together to answer one fundamental question: 'what are the drivers determining calcification rates and reef construction, and will reefs cease to accrete (grow) in the near future in the context of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and/or compromised water quality?' We will also explore the seasonal, spatial (vertical and horizontal), and retrospective (historical and geological) heterogeneity in the reef processes we are investigating. A greater knowledge of the natural variability in these processes will afford us a much better chance of detecting and understanding potential impacts of global climate change or altered water quality on reef building.
Measuring Coral Growth to Help Restore Reefs
It is critical to start measuring calcification rates in a systematic way now, particularly at subtropical latitudes where conditions fluctuate seasonally, so that we can understand how dynamic ocean conditions affect calcifying organisms today and predict possible changes in the future. We established a calcification monitoring network in the Florida Keys and have been measuring calcification rates since 2009.
Coral Reef Seafloor Erosion and Coastal Hazards
Synchronized field work focused on geochemistry, geology, and metabolic processes overlaid on a habitat map of an entire reef to produce a synoptic overview of reef processes that contribute to carbonate precipitation and dissolution.
Reef History and Climate Change
Ecosystem-wide study of seafloor erosion, changing coastal water depths, and effects on coastal storm and wave impacts along the Florida Keys Coral Reef Tract in South Florida.
Holocene Coral-Reef Development
With the continuing threat of climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances, the future of Florida's coral reefs is uncertain. One way to gain insights into the future trajectories of Florida's coral reefs is to investigate how they responded to environmental disturbances in the past.
Microbial Processes on Reefs
The microbial community on coral reefs is generally underappreciated given the ubiquity, abundance, complexity, and formative role these prokaryotes serve in the metabolic and chemical processes on reefs. We use microbiological and metagenomic techniques to decipher the roles the microbial community are playing in processes such as coral disease, submarine groundwater discharge, calcification, and dissolution.
Community Calcification & Metabolism
Changing ocean chemistry resulting from climate change and ocean acidification also affects coral reefs at the community level. The severity of impacts to coral reefs depends, in part, on the ability of reefs to continue growing enough to keep up with rising sea level.
Benthic Habitat Mapping & Monitoring
Benthic community composition, percent cover, areal extent, and temporal stability are critical factors that contribute to the value of a given marine habitat. Knowledge of these benthic cover components provides a baseline for National Park Service resource managers, as well as a tool for planning research activities for other CREST scientists.
Coral diseases have been reported worldwide and with increasing frequency. Disease is now recognized as one of the major causes of reef degradation and coral mortality.
Below are other science projects associated with this project.
Below are data or web applications associated with this project.
Below are multimedia items associated with this project.
Below are publications associated with this project.
Below are news stories associated with this project.
USGS Research Marine Biologist Ilsa B. Kuffner describes the significance of new work on the loss of reef-building capacity in the world's coral reefs...
Research Oceanographer Lauren Toth will travel to Pacific Panama from February 26th–March 15th to collect data on the growth, erosion, and...
In the first ecosystem-wide study of changing sea depths at five large coral reef tracts in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawai’i, U.S. Geological Survey...
Boulder corals in the waters of Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles from Key West, contain evidence that confirms a centuries-old sea temperature...
Below are FAQ associated with this project.
Coral reefs can be damaged by natural processes, such as storms, but they are increasingly at risk from human activities. Oil spills and pollutants can threaten entire reefs. Excessive nutrients from land sources, such as sewage and agricultural fertilizers, promote the growth of algae that can smother corals. Other organisms harmful to corals, such as crown-of-thorns starfish, multiply when the...