Palmyra has some of the world's most exquisite, pristine reefs.Photo by CORAL staff

Palmyra

Around the world, coral reefs are suffering from threats including overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification, and increasing temperatures. With limited resources and varying conditions from place to place, how do we ensure we are investing in conservation strategies that have the greatest benefit for reefs and are most likely to succeed in the long term?

To help answer that question, CORAL is working with a group of researchers from academic institutions and other conservation organizations to develop a set of tools that will guide reef managers as they evaluate difficult trade-off decisions. Known as the Reefs Tomorrow Initiative, this project will use computer models and field studies to build a true scientific understanding of how reefs function, respond to combinations of threats, and rebound from disturbances like coral bleaching events.

We are starting this work in the remote and pristine coral reefs at Palmyra Atoll. Palmyra is part of the Northern Line Islands, located halfway between Hawai’i and American Samoa in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 2000, Palmyra and its surrounding waters are permanently protected as a National Wildlife Refuge. Its reefs are considered to be some of the healthiest in the world, boasting vast numbers of large fish and high coral cover in clear blue water. By understanding how these healthy ecosystems withstand and recover from disturbances, we can better manage our interventions on degraded reefs elsewhere around the world and make them more resilient to global challenges like climate change.

CORAL looks forward to applying what we learn in Palmyra directly to management and conservation actions through partnerships with local reef managers in the Pacific and beyond. A $2.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation established this partnership between CORAL and an elite team of scientists and conservation experts from the American Museum of Natural History, Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy, the University of California-San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of North Carolina- Wilmington, and Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).