100 Island Challenge

RESEARCH GOALS A priority of research and management is to improve our ability to forecast changes in coral reef ecosystems and to provide advice on means to slow or reverse the loss of corals and other reef builders. We will establish a rigorous standardized approach for assessing the structure and dynamics of coral reefs across the Pacific and, in collaboration with local partners, to build these efforts into a coherent, long-term, hierarchical, and regional data collection program. The specific goals of this research project are to determine:

  1. What are the independent and interactive effects of biophysical conditions on the structure of coral reefs?

  2. How reef structure is influenced by exogenous and endogenous conditions across spatial scales (from mm to km)?

  3. How scale-dependent factors influence reef dynamics through time (e.g., coral growth and reef accretion)?

  4. How can these insights be applied to develop meaningful tools for forecasting regional reef change under future local management and global climatic scenarios?

PROJECT SUMMARY Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, yet are estimated to support 25% of marine biodiversity. For the 100s of millions of people living adjacent to coral reefs, this productive ecosystem provides important shoreline protection and critical food security. Despite the high societal values, a combination of local anthropogenic influences and global climatic changes are altering the structure and functioning of reef ecosystems.

The goal of the 100 Island Challenge is to gain a holistic understanding of the current state and future trajectory of the world’s coral reefs by conducting a global assessment of coral reefs and the factors promoting or inhibiting their growth. This project is designed to provide a regional scale perspective of coral reefs, investigating spatially explicit patterns in community organization through time. Coral reefs spanning across multiple ocean basins will be studied, with islands chosen evenly across each subregion. Reef community organization will be assessed across spatial scales, including the individual scale (<1-10m2), the site scale (100s of m2), the island scale (10s-100s of km2), and to the basin-specific regional scale (1-10 million km2). Standard methods of in situ data collection will be complemented by novel photomosaic techniques providing spatially explicit and archivable records of reef benthic structure, from scales of mm2 to 100s of m2. An intensive field campaign will enable replicated imaging of reef community structure, and repeated sampling will provide insights into reef dynamics through time.


Coral taxonomy organized by color.

Coral Reef Time Series from Palmyra Atoll.