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Health and Environmental Effects Research

GED Partners with NOAA for Coral Reef Condition Study

A recent study by Leah Oliver, John Lehrter, and William Fisher of NHEERL’s Gulf Ecology Division (GED) demonstrated a relationship between coral reef condition and human land use in watersheds of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The study employed EPA’s Stony Coral Rapid Bioassessment Protocol to characterize reef condition and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Coastal Change Analysis Program land use/land cover data to characterize the type and level of human development in St. Croix watersheds. The researchers found that greater human development of a watershed was associated with poor coral condition on adjacent reefs. The study also determined that landscape development intensity maps developed from cover data are a good predictor for coral reef condition in St. Croix. Relating resource condition change to human disturbance is key to implementing water quality protection under the Clean Water Act.

The study was published in the April edition of the Marine Ecology Progress Series. The work also will be highlighted on NOAA’s Digital Coast Web site, a site dedicated to building partnerships between coastal professionals to address coastal resource management needs. Information on coral reef assessments and coral reef biocriteria is available at http://www.epa.gov/bioiweb1/coral/coral_biocriteria.html.

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