Moorea Coral Reef LTER

Sally Holbrook, co-PI of the Moorea Coral Reef LTER, and former graduate student Bill Douros, set up an experiment in a lagoon at Moorea, French Polynesia.

Key Research Findings:

The extraordinary biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems is rivaled only by tropical rainforests, and MCR scientists are uncovering important functional implications of this diversity on tropical reefs. As the effects of Ocean Acidification intensify, the discovery that not all corals and other major calcifying organisms will be equally affected has important implications in the effort to understand what tropical reefs will be like in a more acidic future ocean.
MCR scientists discovered that coral-dwelling fishes cause corals to thrive by enriching them with nutrients and protecting them from damage. This finding has important implications for the resilience of coral reefs and the maintenance of biodiversity.
MCR investigators implemented new observation technologies through the Coral Reef Environmental Observatory Network (CREON). Automated sensors record environmental data in coral reefs around the world, leading to an improved understanding of reef habitats and their responses to ocean change.


The Moorea Coral Reef LTER is located on the island of Moorea 20 km northwest of the main island of Tahiti, French Polynesia. Moorea is a high, 1.2 million year old volcanic island surrounded by a well developed coral reef and lagoon system.

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The Moorea Coral Reef LTER was established in September 2004.

Research Topics:

The science themes that form the nucleus of the Moorea Coral Reef LTER program include the: (1) biological
bases for variation in ecological performance of stony corals (the foundational group); (2) population
dynamics of key groups; (3) food web and nutrient dynamics; and (4) maintenance and functional
consequences of diversity. Two additional research components cut across these themes: (a) an
explicit focus on physical – biological coupling over multiple scales; and (b) physical and ecological
models to synthesize field results and obtain generality. Identified issues within each thematic area
will be explored through focused, process-oriented studies and by long-term experiments and time series
of key abiotic conditions, ecosystem functions, and community and population attributes
of major functional groups.


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