NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Integrated Observing System (CREIOS)

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) has combined its mapping and monitoring projects into the Coral Reef Ecosystem Integrated Observing System (CREIOS). CREIOS provides a diverse suite of long-term ecological and environmental observations and information products over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales to understand coral reef ecosystem condition and processes and to inform stakeholders and assist managers in making improved and timely ecosystem-based management decisions to conserve coral reefs.

Mission and Vision: CREIOS scientists strive to provide sound science to support effective management and conservation of U.S. coral reef ecosystems. CREIOS assesses and monitors U.S. coral reef ecosystems to enable comparative analyses across diverse gradients of geography, environmental conditions, management approaches, and anthropogenic stressors.

Access to NOAA's coral reef data and information is provided through NOAA's Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS).

CREIOS System Description

Mapping provides a detailed picture of the physical (bathymetric maps) and biological (benthic habitat maps) structure of coral reef communities associated with the seafloor. CRCP's mapping activities include shallow-water benthic habitat mapping that is accomplished through visual interpretation of high-resolution satellite imagery, and moderate-depth bathymetric mapping that is accomplished with multibeam and sidescan sonar, among other technological tools. Mapping provides scientists and managers with baseline information on the location and distribution of seafloor features, and when conducted repeatedly, mapping can help determine how the character and extent of important habitat types change over time. The CRCP integrates mapping with its other activities to ensure that monitoring and modeling encompass the full range of habitats, depth ranges, geomorphologic zones, scales of circulation and physical forcing, and reef types present in coral reef environments.

Monitoring includes biological, physical, and chemical aspects: direct, periodic field observations of the condition of coral reef ecosystem components, and automated, continuous monitoring of key environmental factors that are known to affect their condition. Monitoring is a process of measuring a number of ecosystem components to assess coral reef conditions and detect changes which may occur over time. CREIOS activities include periodically repeated measurements on time scales that range from continuous (using in situ instrument arrays) to biennial (monitoring cruises using NOAA ships).

Modeling refers to the integration of monitoring data from a variety of platforms, both in the water and remote, and the interpretation of those integrated data for the purpose of recognizing likely impacts on coral reef ecosystems in near-real-time.

NOAA uses five complementary approaches to monitoring the health of coral reef ecosystems:

  • Direct observation of biological, physical, and chemical conditions by divers and underwater researchers;
  • Indirect observation of physical and biological benthic structure by remote sensing;
  • Collection of continuous measurements of environmental conditions influencing reefs from platforms such as pylons, moored buoys and underwater instruments;
  • Interpretation of satellite observations of the ocean's surface temperature, near surface winds, ocean color and other physical variables, which can then be integrated with in situ measurements or other data to produce regional and global near-real-time condition reports and forecasts; and
  • Investigation of the economic and cultural uses of coral reef resources by people.

Data collected from these approaches are combined to describe the condition of coral reef ecosystems and identify factors that may be impacting reefs over time. These data help researchers document changes in coral reef distribution and condition; the associated fish and invertebrate communities; water clarity, quality, temperature and climate factors that impact the entire ecosystem; and societal preferences for certain types of commercial and recreational activities, such as fishing, diving and tourism. Results of these monitoring efforts are published in a series of periodic reports entitled, "The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States" (published in 2002, 2005, and 2008).

CREIOS Publications
CREIOS Observing Platforms