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Coral Reef Systems
Expedition to the Southern Line Islands underway now!
Check the 2013 Expedition menu item at the top for the latest blog entries. Read below for general information.
The Southern Line Islands gained attention from the marine conservation community because of its underwater splendor. A visit by National Geographic, including researchers from Scripps and San Diego State University, found a coral reef full of life and vigor. With no human population, the fish, the corals, the sea birds, and all the rest of the life on the island are as close to "pristine" as remains. We are planning an extended research expedition to learn more from the Southern Line Islands, a so-called "baseline" against which to compare other coral reefs.
Coral reef ecosystems are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet yet they are suffering significant declines due to human impacts. Because many people depend on reefs for their livelihoods it is critical to gain a clear understanding of how these ecosystems function. So-called "baseline" coral reefs, namely those with little to no human disturbance, offer an unparalleled academic opportunity to inform coral reef management. How do reefs function without human stress? With insights from intact reefs, we can better manage reefs that are needed to feed and protect human populations.
In Oct/Nov 2013, we will bring a premier team of scientists to the Southern Line Islands. The goal is to identify the factors that define a pristine coral reef, and to consider how we can bring these ecological characteristics back to coral reefs that have been damaged. The academic opportunity is unparalleled, and the team is holding nothing back to learn the most possible in this unique trip.
Coral Reef Systems (CRS) is a working group of scientists united by an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to studying coral reefs across gradients of anthropogenic stress.
CORAL REEF BASELINES
We study pristine reefs to establish baselines to compare with changing systems. Without an understanding of how coral reefs are structured in the absence of disturbance, it is impossible to assess the magnitude of change in response to human activities. Taking advantage of coral reef baselines in some of the remotest regions of the world, our group strives to learn just how coral reefs should function. Armed with such baseline knowledge, we can knowingly characterize the roles, both good and bad, played by human activities.
Recognizing that coral reefs are highly diverse, complex systems, we work across disciplines to better understand the ecology of reef communities. From chemistry to climate, from microbes to sharks, our efforts span the wide range of organizational and taxonomic scales that compose coral reefs. We have standardized methods of data acquisition and invented many others that are now used in a variety of ecosystems.