Unit 4: Keeping An Eye On Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are found throughout the tropical oceans of the world. These ecosystems are among the most diverse in the world. In many parts of the world, coral reefs are severely degraded and threatened by a range of human-caused impacts including pollution, overfishing, and direct destruction through activities such as dredging and contact during recreational activities.
Around the world, there is growing concern over reef health. The Coral Reef Initiative is a new international effort to reverse the trends that have damaged about ten percent of the world’s coral reefs beyond recovery. An initial assessment suggests that Hawaiian coral reefs are generally in better shape than reefs in many other parts of the world. Still, people are putting pressure on Hawaiian coral reefs, and the extent of our impact is not always known. In this unit, students learn why coral reef monitoring is done, practice some essential reef-monitoring skills, and research problems with coral reefs around the world.
Length of Entire Unit
Three class periods.
Coral reef ecology. Coral reef study and monitoring techniques.
Hawaiian coral reefs may generally be in better shape than reefs in many other parts of the world. Still, people are putting pressure on Hawaiian coral reefs, and the extent of our impact is not always known. That is why studying and monitoring coral reefs is so important.
Unit Focus Questions
- How and why do scientists monitor coral reefs?
- What are some of the essential skills of coral reef monitoring?
- What are the main threats to coral reef health around Maui and around the world?
- Research a favorite coral reef to learn more about whether it has been studied, what the studies reported, the current health of the coral reef, current threats, and so forth.
- Apply sampling methods to estimate the number of students, numbers of males and females, or ethnic composition of students in the school. Check against enrollment figures.
- Participate in volunteer opportunities to monitor local coral reefs. (See the introduction to this module for organizations that offer these opportunities.)
- Watch the video Coral Reefs: Their Health, Our Wealth (included with this curriculum or see “Resources for Further Reading and Research” for ordering information). Use the information in the video, which focuses on Guam coral reefs, as the basis for a research project that compares the status of and threats to Guam coral reefs with those in Hawaiʻi.
Resources for Further Reading
Klemm, E. Barbara, Francis M. Pottenger III, Thomas W. Speitel, S. Arthur Reed, Ann E. Coopersmith, The Living Ocean: Biological Science and Technology in the Marine Environment, Curriculum Research and Development Group, University of Hawaiʻi, Honolulu, 1995. The chapter on corals and coral reefs covers how a coral grows; symbiosis; coral identification; reef formation, structure, and evolution; biological and physical agents of change on reefs; and the worldwide distribution of coral reefs.
University of Guam Marine Laboratory, and Guam Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, Coral Reefs: Their Health, Our Wealth. This 24-minute video is available from the Guam Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources,192 Dairy Road, Mangilao, Guam 96923, Facsimile (671) 734-6570.
Basic information about coral reef ecology is available on the Coral Reef Ecology website at <www.uvi.edu/coral.reefer/index.html> and on the Coral Reef Alliance website.
Resources related to coral reef monitoring and volunteer opportunities in Hawaiʻi is available on the Reef Environmental Education Foundation website at, the Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Project website at, and the Reef Check website at.
Hawaiʻi Sea Grant has published an online bibliography of reference works related to coral reefs at <www.soest.hawaii.edu/SEAGRANT/iyorbib.html#monitor>.