Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures. Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below. This in turn provides support for algae and other organisms whose secretions serve to bind the skeletons together. Reef-building corals are restricted in their geographic distribution. This is because the formation of highly consolidated reefs only occurs where the temperature does not fall below 18°C for extended periods.
Millions of people around the world depend upon coral reefs for food resources, coastal protection, building materials, and income from tourism. Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on earth. Coral reefs provide a critical habitat for a wide variety of fish and marine invertebrates. Coral reefs also protect shores against erosion by causing large waves to break and lose some of their force before reaching land. However, coral reef is one of the most endangered natural resources. Declining reef health is harmful not only to creatures inhabiting coral ecosystems, but also to the human populations that depend upon them.
The United States is one of many nations around the world working to stop the coral reef crisis. The United States Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) was established in 1998. USCRTF take a lead to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce has the responsibility and expertise to conserve coral reef ecosystems. NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program brings together the expertise of the offices working on coral reef issues. The offices working on coral reef issues are National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and National Environmental Satellite and Information Service. Through this program, NOAA partners with scientific, private, government, and nongovernmental organizations at the local, state, federal, and international levels to support effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems.
Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 aims at creating awareness to help protect coral reefs.
The purpose of the Act is as follows:
-to preserve, sustain, and restore the condition of coral reef ecosystems;>
-to promote the wise management and sustainable use of coral reef ecosystems to benefit local communities and the nation;
-to develop sound scientific information on the condition of coral reef ecosystems and the threats to such ecosystems;
-to assist in the preservation of coral reefs by supporting conservation programs, including projects that involve affected local communities and nongovernmental organizations;
-to provide financial resources for those programs and projects; and
-to establish a formal mechanism for collecting and allocating monetary donations from the private sector to be used for coral reef conservation projects.