Coral reefs in the Virgin Islands National Park (VIIS) have undergone drastic declines in the past three decades. Moreover, but recent projections based on climate modeling have predicted increased rapid, global-scale losses will occur due to increased anthropogenic and environmental stressors. As a result of these observed and projected declines, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) proposed 20 coral species of the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic to be listed as threatened in August of 2014. Of the 20 species listed, five are important reef-building species native to the Caribbean and found within the VIIS boundaries. To achieve comprehensive and effective protection of remaining reef resources, it is imperative to improve our scientific understanding of the abundance, condition, and trends of key Scleractinian coral species found within national park resources. The data collection and analysis methods used by the South Florida/Caribbean Network Inventory and Monitoring Program (SFCN) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have produced two substantial databases that were explored here using geospatial information systems to map the spatial and temporal trends of the following 7 ESA listed species and 4 additional reef-building Scleractinian species: Orbicella annularis, Orbicella faveolata, Orbicella franksi, Mycetophyllia ferox, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Acropora cervicornis, Acropora palmata, Colpophyllia natans, Pseudodiploria strigosa, Pseudodiploria clivosa and Diploria labrynthiformis. Monitoring by the SFCN monitoring occurs at five permanent sites that contain complex reefs with high coral cover within VIIS boundaries, while NOAA monitoring occurs at randomly selected sites within all hard bottom habitats of St. John, USVI. Data from the SFCN and NOAA databases were used to create an interactive resource management tool to visualize the spatial and temporal changes each species has undergone at the specific and broad scales, as well as to asses the impacts of the 2005 bleaching and disease event. The mapping and visualization tool developed here is based on the percent coral cover data, collected by the SFCN and NOAA monitoring programs to represent species’ abundances at targeted and broad regional scales. This project is accessible to all National Park Service staff and other scientists to assist with natural resource protection and interpretation goals. Mapping the spatial and temporal trends of 11 important reef-building species provides the basis for efficient marine spatial planning. This tool provides accurate and up-to-date spatial information that can be easily used and assessed by resource managers and provides valuable information needed to promote effective and affordable ways to improve the management of these vital marine resources.
DiLeo, Julia A., "The spatial and temporal patterns of eleven Scleractinian coral species of the Virgin Islands National Park" (2014). Internship Reports (Restricted). 131.
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