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Coral Reef Working Group (CRWG)

Mission Statement, Goals and Objectives


A. Mission Statement for the Coral Reef Working Group

The Coral Reef Working Group (CRWG) seeks to facilitate international research and collaboration to address the impacts of climate change, specifically ocean warming and ocean acidification, upon coral reef systems of the Asia-Pacific region.  This facilitation will be used to develop regional scientific capacity towards understanding the effects of these impacts, to propose actions that may be used counter or mitigate negative effects, and to communicate outcomes of research upon these impacts to scientists, managers, policy makers and the public.

The CRWG recognizes that coral reef systems within the Pacific region are under severe threat from ocean warming and ocean acidification.  Increased sea temperatures promote coral bleaching and subsequent loss of critical habitats, microhabitats, food, and reproduction sites for many species.  Increased sea temperatures will also promote range extensions of tropical and subtropical reef species, and of invasive species as well.  Ocean acidification will lead to significant negative impacts upon biological organisms.  Many species are susceptible to decreased pH levels that may have negative physical and biological effects upon corals and associated organisms.  These effects will be upon reproduction, larval development, recruitment success, trophic structure, and behavioral processes, but will also have negative effects upon habitats and microhabitats.   The cumulative effects of both ocean warming and acidification upon coral reef s pose significant extinction risks for many taxa that are dependent upon functional coral reef systems.  These risks increase when other factors, such as over-fishing, anthropogenic-driven habitat destruction, water pollution, and other stressors, are included.

While considerable attention has been given to understanding the effects of ocean warming and acidification upon coral reef systems, there is a need to increase research effort, develop effective management strategies, and provide for the rapid dissemination of information necessary to address the cumulative impacts upon the biodiversity and physical integrity of coral reef systems, and the human communities that depend upon these systems, within the Pacific region.  The Pacific region lacks comprehensive information on the extinction susceptibilities of many coral reef organisms, and their habitats, ecological requirements, and responses to environmental stresses, and this information is extremely important to guide and inform conservation efforts.

The CRWG should develop the capacity to address the actual and potential effects from ocean warming and ocean acidification upon coral reef systems within the region, to facilitate innovative research efforts into the processes driving these effects, and to communicate information obtained from these efforts that can lead to the development and implementation of effective management strategies that attempt to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainability.

B. Goals for the Coral Reef Working Group

1. Promote intensive efforts to increase international and inter-regional institutional collaboration, particularly between those with scientific expertise in coral reef science and regional Pacific institutions, agencies, and non-governmental organizations;
2. Provide enhanced cooperation between scientists, managers, and local stakeholders to increase data collection on negative impacts upon coral reefs, the loss of biodiversity at local and regional scales, and the alteration or loss of resources essential to local communities.  This cooperation should facilitate the development of effective management strategies that reduce the loss of coral reef  biodiversity and promote the sustainability of resources;
3. Promote greater collaboration between scientists and resource managers to develop simple but effective data collection and processing tools that will facilitate useful monitoring of negative impacts upon coral reefs and their biodiversity, and the development of appropriate research programs and management and policy plans;
4. Provide enhanced information sharing and collaboration between projects and programs in the Pacific region to ensure more efficient management of coral reefs under stress from the effects of ocean warming and acidification in concert with other stressors.

C. Objectives for the Coral Reef Working Group

1. To collaborate closely with the Task Force on Ocean Acidification in the Pacific (TFOAP), and the Biodiversity Task Force in an effort to coordinate data collection and analysis, develop predictive models of negative impacts resulting from the interaction of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and other stressors, develop predictive models of extinction susceptibility and risk, develop effective strategies towards mitigating negative impacts of ocean warming and acidification, and communicate results and recommendations to communities, managers and policy makers.

2.  To organize and conduct a special session on Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Effects Upon Coral Reefs to be held at the 22nd Pacific Science Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (13-17 June, 2011).  This session will integrate recent research on the effects of ocean warming and acidification upon physical and biological processes in coral reef systems, predictive models of  extinction susceptibilities and risks, and the loss of biodiversity among coral reef organisms, with innovative management policies and actions that can be communicated to stakeholders within the Pacific region.