By law the National Parks have a mandate to preserve their natural, historic, and scenic resources in perpetuity, for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. Despite that mandate coral scientists now despair that coral reefs worldwide, including those within National Parks, will suffer substantial mortality over the next few decades from climate warming. Forecasts developed as widespread mortality of corals began in the early 1980s, increasing frequency of extraordinary warm ocean waters, and emphasized in 1997-98 when corals around the world were devastated by increased ocean temperatures in that warmest year on record to date.
The National Park Service responded to this threat by staffing Pacific Islands' parks with marine scientists, incorporating Pacific park marine environments among those ecosystems to be monitored by a service-wide Inventory and Monitoring Program, and by supporting substantial coral reef studies through the Pacific Islands Cooperative Studies Unit. View the First Decade of Pacific Parks' Coral Reef Program.
Additionally, the National Parks' legislative direction to preserve these natural resources in perpetuity was augmented by the recent Coral Reef Conservation Act.
It is becomming apparent that preserving coral reef ecosystems as they are today will be impossible. View the marvelously diverse coral reef ecosystem shown here with a disturbing sense of impending doom. The 2009 Report to the Congress Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States foretells the demise of coral reefs by mid-century from a lethal combination of increasing ocean acidity and warming caused by human induced increase in CO2. View excerpts related to coral reef ecosystems, or download the entire report to the Congress (13.09 mb pdf)