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Economic Research Improves Management
Ntudying the socioeconomic relationships between people and the ocean is a key priority for the National Marine Sanctuary System. Through this research, the sanctuaries work to improve our understanding of how diverse ecosystems and ocean users interact, and how to protect fragile marine resources in a way that also protects communities and their livelihoods.

In 2010, researchers with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries developed a groundbreaking socioeconomic model that sheds new light on the coral reef ecosystems of Florida and the eastern Caribbean. Their research explores the relationships between coral reefs, the ocean environment and humans, presenting a comprehensive picture of the many ways in which the reefs are valuable to people, as well as the potential effects of threats like ocean acidification.

This model provides marine resource managers with new decision-making tools, supporting efforts like the U.S. EPA's initiative to help coral reef ecosystem managers assess the costs and benefits of potential restoration strategies.

Sanctuary scientists and their partners work to understand and predict natural and human-caused changes throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System. From environmental monitoring to ocean science education to development of partnerships that enhance the system's research capacity, science and exploration are essential to the effective management of our special underwater places.

Expeditions Unlock Secrets of Deepwater Corals around the Nation

volunteersAcross the National Marine Sanctuary System, scientists delved far below the surface into the world of deepwater corals in 2010. Research expeditions involving numerous sanctuary partners targeted these little-understood habitats in Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, Channel Islands and Olympic Coast national marine sanctuaries on the West Coast; Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia; and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Researchers on the West Coast missions used underwater robots and a submersible to document deepwater corals in and around the sanctuaries, bringing back never-before-seen images from Cordell Bank of corals 1,300 feet below the surface of the sanctuary. At Papahānaumokuākea, divers used specialized equipment to descend as far as 250 feet underwater, finding several new species and high concentrations of fish found nowhere else in the world. Groundbreaking expeditions like these let us assess the health of deepwater corals and help improve our understanding of their role in the greater ocean ecosystem.

Sanctuary Research enters the "Twilight Zone"

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico is home to thriving coral reefs perched atop underwater mountains called salt domes. Below the tops of these domes — from about 150 to 500 feet deep — less sunlight filters down through the water into the murky region known as the "twilight zone." The challenges of conducting research at these depths have prevented scientists from exploring and studying it in detail, but recent technological advances allowed the sanctuary science team to initiate an ambitious program in 2010 to monitor habitats in the twilight zone in partnership with the University of North Carolina - Wilmington, NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. The resulting information will be a valuable resource in assessing and responding to threats like the MC252 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, other oil spills, and declining water quality.

First-ever International workshop Dives into Undersea Corrosion

volunteers on the beachThe Office of National Marine Sanctuaries hosted the first-ever meeting of international experts on the science of shipwreck corrosion, Oct. 18-20 in Newport News, Va. The International Corrosion Workshop, organized in conjunction with NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and CALIBRE Systems Inc., brought together nearly 100 scientists and historians with expertise in corrosion science, underwater munitions and maritime history to discuss how marine corrosion affects a variety of resources and potential threats. The workshop explored current methods and technologies, such as the Resources and UnderSea Threats (RUST) database, that are used to assess the condition of metal shipwrecks on the seafloor and to predict how quickly hazardous items like bombs and fuel tanks will corrode in seawater. These discussions highlighted NOAA's proactive efforts to address and spread awareness of corrosion-related threats both within and beyond sanctuary boundaries.

Gray's Reef Seafloor Observatory Tracks Ocean Acidification

volunteers on the beachIn an ongoing effort to better understand and monitor the effects of ocean acidification throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System, researchers at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary partnered with the University of Georgia in 2010 to develop and install a scientific "observatory" on the seafloor of the sanctuary. Sensors on the remote station record measurements like seawater pH, temperature, salt content and dissolved oxygen levels, helping create a baseline for tracking changes in the ocean conditions in the sanctuary. Along with data collected by the National Data Buoy Center and the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, scientists will be able to use this information to learn more about how ocean acidification and other climate-related shifts affect marine ecosystems over time.

Scientists Monitor Underwater Noise at Channel Islands Sanctuary

Last year marked the final year of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ involvement in one of the most intensive, continuous acoustic monitoring efforts in the National Marine Sanctuary System, a five-year project documenting underwater noise in and around Chan- nel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Marine scientists and managers are recognizing the importance of sounds in the ocean and the potential harmful effects of noise on marine life like whales and dolphins, but this kind of continuous research is essential to understanding the issue more fully. Since its creation in 2005, the program expanded to include monitor- ing of large ship traffic (the greatest source of marine sound) in 2007, and tagging of large whales with acoustic monitors in 2009. This innovative use of technology applied to conser- vation science stemmed from a partnership including the Scripps Institution of Oceanogra- phy, U.S. Navy, NOAA Fisheries Service and groups like the Cascadia Research Collective.

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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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