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Coral Reef Biological Criteria
Bradley, P., W. Fisher, AND Debbie Santavy. Coral Reef Biological Criteria. Presented at Annual U.S. EPA ORD, Caribbean Environmental Protection Division (CEPD) Meeting, August 09 - 14, 2012.
To provide an update on completed work and current research activities to Regional personnel.
Coral reefs worldwide are experiencing decline from a variety of stressors. Some important stressors are land-based sources of pollution and human activities in the coastal zone. However, few tools are available to offset the impact of these stressors. The Clean Water Act (CWA) provides a framework for developing water quality standards to protect the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters. Physical and chemical standards already provide some measure of protection for coral reefs, but more specific protection can come from biological standards. Biological thresholds, like physical and chemical thresholds, can be used to determine attainment or impairment of a State’s designated uses. This means that coral reef condition can be used to determine whether standards are being met. If coral condition does not meet established criteria, the waterbody is listed as impaired and corrective action by the State is required. Biocriteria are not currently in use for coral reefs or for any marine resource, but many States have implemented biocriteria to protect freshwater resources. Biocriteria for coral reefs will require robust assessment approaches, indicators that are sensitive to human disturbance and scientifically-defensible, long-term monitoring strategies. Several recent advances in these areas make biocriteria a feasible goal for reef protection and conservation. A rapid bioassessment protocol was introduced and validated in the Florida Keys and U.S. Virgin Islands1 and several stony coral indicators have been validated for sensitivity (responsiveness) to human disturbance 2,3. Additional reef resources are being examined as candidate metrics, including gorgonian octocorals, sponges and reef invertebrates4. Finally, an approach for generating and implementing coral reef biocriteria has been summarized in a recent EPA Report5. A workshop of coral reef experts will be meeting in Puerto Rico to begin developing the conceptual fram