Science Inventory

Developing the Biological Condition Gradient (BCG), as a Tool for Describing the Condition of US Coral Reefs

Citation:

Santavy, Debbie, P. Bradley, J. Gerritsen, AND S. Jackson. Developing the Biological Condition Gradient (BCG), as a Tool for Describing the Condition of US Coral Reefs. International Coral Reef Symposium, Honolulu, HI, June 19 - 24, 2016.

Impact/Purpose:

Understanding effects of human activity on coral reefs requires knowing what characteristics constitute a high quality coral reef and identifying measurable criteria. The biological condition gradient (BCG) is a conceptual model that describes how biological attributes of coral reefs change along a gradient of anthropogenic stress. The BCG provides a framework using qualitative and quantitative reef attributes to determine current coral reef conditions. The US EPA currently working to develop biocriteria and tools for assessing coral reef condition which can be used with the US Clean Water Act for regulation of land based activities which impact the health of coral reefs. Presentation of this work at an international meeting is important to inform others of the developments, obtain expert comments on work, and allow other to use these tools for other coastal systems.

Description:

Understanding effects of human activity on coral reefs requires knowing what characteristics constitute a high quality coral reef and identifying measurable criteria. The BCG is a conceptual model that describes how biological attributes of coral reefs change along a gradient of anthropogenic stress. The BCG provides a framework using qualitative and quantitative reef attributes to determine current coral reef conditions. Experts in coral reef organisms (coral, fish, sponge, gorgonian, algae) developed a BCG model for Puerto Rico. The model describes the full range of biological conditions resulting from human disturbance, including community structure, organism condition, ecosystem function and connectivity. Each condition level is defined and grounded in natural biological integrity. Levels contain a detailed narrative and process for translating specific metric scores. Reference condition is a natural fully-functioning coral reef that serves as a non-shifting baseline and established through expert consensus. BCG levels can be aligned with designated aquatic life uses specified in water quality standards and used for protection and potential restoration of coral reefs. Managers can use the BCG model to define biological integrity grounded in natural condition, assess current conditions relative to high quality coral reefs, track changes in condition as responses to management actions, and communicate environmental condition and outcomes to the public. The BCG model will be broadly applicable to Caribbean reefs, and the process is transferable to other oceanic regions.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Product Published Date: 06/20/2016
Record Last Revised: 07/18/2016
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 321692

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

GULF ECOLOGY DIVISION