The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is awarding more than $8.4 million in grants and cooperative agreements this year to support conservation projects and scientific studies that benefit coral reef management across seven U.S. states and territories, the Caribbean and Micronesia.
All of these projects focus on priority coral reef regions and watersheds, addressing three primary threats: global climate change, land-based sources of pollution, and unsustainable fishing practices.
Funded projects include grants to reduce sediment and improve water quality in U.S Virgin Islands, work with communities in Hawaii to address threats to coral reefs, support coral reef ecosystem conservation in Puerto Rico, and strengthen outreach and education efforts.
Projects also include work to assess coral reef resiliency to climate change in multiple locations. Earlier this year, NOAA declared the third global coral bleaching event. While corals can recover from mild bleaching, severe or long-term bleaching is often lethal, especially when combined with other threats.
“Healthy coral reefs are important to all of us. Conservation of these resources is a key factor in the resilience of coastal communities,” said Jennifer Koss, director of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. “The projects funded through NOAA’s grants program allow us to strengthen our ties with local partners, address the most pressing threats to corals, and broaden our conservation efforts.”
Nearly half of the funds awarded this year directly support coral reef conservation projects led by state and territorial resource management agencies. Other conservation projects are led by non-governmental organizations, community groups, and academic partners. A limited number of international projects focused in Micronesia, Mesoamerica and the wider Caribbean region were also supported.
“It's exciting to fund smart and innovative projects led by partners who are working across disciplines to make a positive impact on the condition of the world's coral reefs,” said Jenny Waddell, coordinator of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program’s grants portfolio. “There are surely a lot of challenges ahead for coral reefs, but by studying, managing and conserving them in a collaborative way, we are all helping ensure coral reefs continue to survive and thrive.”