The overarching objective of this project is to demonstrate and validate the advanced fluorescence technology developed by the Rutgers team under SERDP project RC-1334 for assessing and monitoring the viability of coral reef communities at selected Department of Defense (DoD) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) installations. Specific technical objectives include: (1) validation of the capabilities of this technology for identification and quantification of natural and anthropogenic environmental stressors (such as the impact of heavy metals, petroleum contamination, and nutrient input), including stressors of interest to DoD and (2) collection of cost and environmental performance data and development of a plan to transition this technology to the intended users.
This project utilizes the novel bio-optical technology developed within the framework of SERDP project RC-1334, namely the Fluorescence Induction and Relaxation (FIRe) technique, for assessing the health of benthic organisms, including corals. This innovative technology provides, in a non-destructive way and in real time, a comprehensive set of photosynthetic and physiological characteristics of an organism. The measured parameters characterize the excitonic energy transfer in the photosynthetic light-harvesting antennae, photochemistry in reaction centers, and the photosynthetic electron transport pathway to carbon fixation. Because these processes are particularly sensitive to environmental factors, the FIRe technology provides the basis for identification and quantification of natural and anthropogenic stressors.
In this collaborative effort, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, Rutgers University, and Navy/NOAA team will demonstrate and validate the FIRe technology for monitoring the physiological status of coral reef communities at selected DoD and NOAA sites, including: (1) Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; (2) Naval Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and (3) La Parguera, Puerto Rico. These sites have been selected to validate the capability of the FIRe technology to address the stressors of interest to DoD within a multi-stressor environment. The demonstration at Guantanamo Bay will address detrimental effects of thermal stress, together with enhanced nutrient loading. The demonstration at Pearl Harbor will evaluate the impact of oil leaking from the U.S.S. Arizona on coral larvae. The demonstration at La Parguera is designed to validate the capability of the FIRe technology to assess the effects of documented pollution with heavy metals and nutrient input.
This project will result in advanced sensor technology capability for coral reef assessment, leading to decreased costs and a reduction in resource intensive requirements for DoD. This will facilitate efforts to meet National Environmental Policy Act assessment needs, obtain compliance status with Executive Order (EO) 13089 (Coral Reef Protection) and Clean Water Act requirements, and obtain permits for future DoD military construction efforts. DoD is a participant in the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) and through policy supports coral reef preservation and EO 13089. One of DoD's responsibilities as a CRTF member is to monitor and assess the coral reef ecosystems under its control. This project will help to overcome the limitations of current state-of-the-art protocols that do not provide sufficient information on coral reef physiological status or threat exposure. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2015)