The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded $1.1 million in grants to support efforts to restored the health and resilience of coral reefs in Florida, Hawai‘i, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.
The grants will generate $2.3 million in matching contributions for a total restoration impact of $3.4 million.
“Across the globe, coral reef ecosystems suffer persistent damage from stressors including increased coral bleaching events, warming oceans, overfishing and pollution,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF.
“NFWF is proud that over the course of over 20 years, with the support of our partners, the Coral Reef Conservation Fund has become a highly effective incubator for innovation, development and dissemination of best practices for protecting coral,” he added.
The grants were awarded through the Coral Reef Conservation Fund (CRCF), a 21-year conservation partnership between NFWF and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP).
Aramco Americas also joined in support of the fund as the major corporate sponsor for a second consecutive year. Supplemental funding was also provided this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Now more than ever, we need to come together to make a real difference in conserving corals,” said Jennifer Koss, director of the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.
“Every year the quality of proposals increases and funding decisions are harder, which is a real testament to NOAA and NFWF building upon years of work in coral reef research and management,” she continued.
The projects supported by these seven grants will address NFWF’s three primary focus areas to help protect functioning and resilient coral reef systems in an increasingly urbanized and changing coastal environment:
- Increasing the resiliency of coral reefs by reducing human-based threats such as overfishing and land-based sources of pollution;
- Promoting active restoration efforts to restore degraded reefs; and
- Investing in innovation and tools for managers to increase their capacity and decision-making power.
With this second year’s contribution in 2021, Aramco Americas’ support of the Coral Reef Conservation Fund has helped make possible the award of 18 conservation grants in U.S., Caribbean, and Pacific waters related to the health of coral reefs. The company’s support has catalyzed a total on-the-ground impact of $6.2 million in just two years.
“Aramco is pleased to support conservation efforts around the world, and especially those related to marine environments,” said Nabeel I. AlAfaleg, president and chief executive officer, Aramco Americas. “This extends our work with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and our commitment to having a positive, long-term impact on marine environmental protection.”
This year’s Coral Reef Conservation Fund grant recipients include:
- Coral Restoration Foundation ($148,000) will use artificial intelligence software to create reef-scale photomosaic images for the purpose of coral restoration monitoring;
- Arizona State University ($196,000) will identify herbivory thresholds for reef resilience in Hawai‘i that relate to coral reef condition to help reef managers manage fish populations for coral restoration and health;
- Protectores de Cuencas ($150,000) will engage the local community of Culebra, Puerto Rico in a citizen-science monitoring program to help prioritize coral reef conservation strategies for the island;
- State of Hawai‘i, Department of Land and Natural Resources ($222,000) will protect 7,000 acres of forests from non-native hooved animals to reduce sedimentation onto nearshore coral reef habitat;
- The Nature Conservancy ($110,000) will characterize the current state of the coral reefs at Kawela in southeast Molokai to help track recovery after significant land pollution reduction activities that are in progress;
- Mariana Islands Nature Alliance ($50,000) will test various coral out-planting strategies to inform future coral reef restoration in the territory; and
- Nova Southeastern University ($233,000) will provide treatments to corals to prevent loss of corals to stony coral tissue loss disease.
Since 2000, the Coral Reef Conservation Fund has made 408 awards to coral conservation projects with $22 million in federal and non-federal funds, which leveraged more than $29 million in matching funds for a total conservation impact of $51 million.