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Spatiotemporal Trends in Benthic and Reef Fish Communities in the Mariana Archipelago

December 18, 2023

An effort to integrate the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program with local coral reef monitoring data to assess the temporal variation in fish and benthic communities over the last couple decades.


Long-term, large-scale monitoring programs are critical for assessing the resilience of coral reefs to global climate change. Resilience is defined as the ability of reefs to maintain key functions by either resisting the environmental changes or recovering from them (McLeod et al. 2019; Shaver et al. 2022). However, to enable coral reef managers to support resilience through effective management interventions, monitoring programs need to be able to capture the ecological processes that underpin resilience at management-relevant scales and over a long period of time. The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) was explicitly designed to summarize coral reef site-level data at the regional and island scales. While the results are geographically comprehensive, this sampling design limits the utility of the NCRMP dataset to inform local resource management decisions at sub-island scales. Accordingly, managers typically rely on smaller-scale efforts that trade spatial comprehensiveness for finer spatiotemporal resolution. To reconcile managers’ scale of interest and better leverage NCRMP data, we present an effort to integrate NCRMP with local coral reef monitoring data to assess the temporal variation in fish and benthic communities over the last couple decades, during which heat stress events and acute disturbances (e.g., typhoons, crown-of-thorns outbreaks) have occurred. We identified common community metrics from all monitoring programs, compared these metrics between populated and remote islands, and analyzed their trends at the island- and downscaled sector-scales (sub-island spatial units that are homogeneous in benthic cover).

The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service uses the NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-PIFSC series to disseminate scientific and technical information that has been scientifically reviewed and edited. Documents within this series reflect sound professional work and may be referenced in the formal scientific and technical literature.

Gajdzik L, Ingeman K, Kindinger TL, Oliver T 2023. Spatiotemporal trends in benthic and reef fish communities in the Mariana Archipelago U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NOAA-TM-NMFS-PIFSC-152, 45 p.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 01/24/2024