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Florida – Monitoring Reef Resilience


Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change in the Florida Reef Tract

Location
Florida Reef Tract, Florida, USA

The Challenge
Climate change and a range of human activities threaten the natural resilience of coral reef ecosystems. Reef resilience is the ability to resist and recover from disturbances while retaining essentially the same function and structure. Managers can support the natural resilience of reefs by reducing their sensitivity to climate-related disturbances, such as coral bleaching, by reducing stress on reefs caused by human activities. Identifying resilient reef areas and better understanding their interaction with human stressors can help inform management strategies to better protect coral reefs in the future.

Southeast Florida’s coral reefs are located close to shore and co-exist with intensely urbanized areas. They are subject to impacts from a variety of natural and human stressors including, among others, coral bleaching and disease, invasive species, marine debris, land based sources of pollution, recreational and commercial misuse, and coastal construction. The challenge for natural resource managers in Florida, as with everywhere else reefs occur, lies in deciding which actions to implement and where, to best support resilience. Understanding spatial variation in resilience to climate change in the Florida Reef Tract was the goal of this project, with the aim being to produce information that can inform management decisions.

This project was a collaboration co-funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and The Nature Conservancy’s Florida office. This project addresses this priority from Florida’s Climate Change Action Plan – Determine and map areas of high and low resilience to climate change in order to prioritize management efforts.

Actions Taken
Data Collection & Analysis
In order to understand the spatial variation in resilience to climate change in the Florida Reef Tract, the following seven indicators were included in the assessment of relative resilience:

  • coral cover
  • macroalgae cover
  • bleaching resistance
  • coral diversity
  • coral disease
  • herbivore biomass
  • temperature variability
Collecting data. Photo © Jessica Keller

Collecting data. Photo © Jessica Keller

Data used to develop these indicators come from field reef monitoring surveys (excepting temperature variability, which is remotely sensed) conducted in 2016 (no other years are included) as part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program and Florida Reef Resilience Program. Both monitoring programs use a stratified random sampling design whereby surveys are completed within all of the various habitat types and sub-regions of the Florida Reef Tract. A tutorial on analyzing relative resilience can be found here.

For this analysis, the data collected are summarized using weighted averages within ‘strata’, which combine habitat type and reef vertical complexity (i.e. ‘PR_HR’ Patch reef high relief in Tortugas). There are eight strata in Tortugas, seven in the Florida Keys (FL Keys) and eight in Southeast Florida (SE FL). A single value for each indicator is produced for each of these 23 strata. Indicator scores are then made uni-directional (high score is a good score), the scores are normalized to the maximum value to standardize scores to a 0-1 scale, and the scores are averaged and re-normalized to produce the final resilience scores. The strata are then ranked from highest to lowest score and classified as follows, based on the average (AVG) final resilience score (0.77) and standard deviation (SD) (0.16):

  • High (>AVG+1SD)
  • Med-high (>AVG & <AVG+1SD)
  • Med-low (<AVG & >AVG-1SD)
  • Low (<AVG-1SD)

Results
For the Florida Reef track sites, the average score for the ‘raw’ resilience scores was 0.5 and ranged from 0.31 to 0.65. The average of the normalized, final resilience scores was 0.77 and ranged from 0.31 to 0.65. The standard deviation around this average was 0.16. Relative resilience categories are set as:

  • High (>AVG+1SD; >0.93)
  • Med-high (>AVG & <AVG+1SD; >0.77&<0.93)
  • Med-low (<AVG & >AVG-1SD; <0.77&>0.61)
  • Low (<AVG-1SD; <0.61)
Figure 1. Relative resilience to climate change in the Florida Reef Tract, based on data collected in 2016. Rankings from highest to lowest relative resilience (1-23) are shown after strata codes top left, and descriptions for strata codes are right. Relative resilience is greatest in the FL Keys and lowest in SE Florida. Results of a canonical analysis of principal (CAP) coordinates are inset and show strong groupings among the relative categories in multivariate space. High resilience sites are strongly associated with high values for coral cover, bleaching resistance, and herbivore biomass and low levels of coral disease; the opposite is true for low resilience sites. (from Maynard et al. 2017)

Figure 1. Relative resilience to climate change in the Florida Reef Tract, based on data collected in 2016. Rankings from highest to lowest relative resilience (1-23) are shown after strata codes top left, and descriptions for strata codes are right. Relative resilience is greatest in the FL Keys and lowest in SE Florida. Results of a canonical analysis of principal (CAP) coordinates are inset and show strong groupings among the relative categories in multivariate space. High resilience sites are strongly associated with high values for coral cover, bleaching resistance, and herbivore biomass and low levels of coral disease; the opposite is true for low resilience sites (from Maynard et al. 2017). Click to see larger image.

Among the 23 strata, there are 5 with relatively high resilience, 9 medium-high, 6 medium-low, and 3 with relatively low resilience (Figure 1). The Tortugas had 1 high, 4 med-high, and 3 med-low resilience strata. The FL Keys had 4 high, 2 med-high, and 1 med-low resilience strata. SE Florida had 5 med-low and 3 low resilience strata.

The strata with relatively high resilience are:

  • F_D_LR [1] – Forereef deep low relief in FL Keys
  • MC_PR [2] – Mid-channel patch reef in FL Keys
  • PR_HR [3] – Patch reef high relief in Tortugas
  • RF_HR [4] – Reef high relief in FL Keys
  • F_M_LR [5] – Forereef mid-depth low relief in FL Keys

The strata with relatively low resilience are:

  • NEAR [21] – Nearshore in SE Florida
  • RR_C [22] – Reef-ridge complex in SE Florida
  • RF_D [23] – Reef deep in SE Florida

Results of a multivariate statistical analysis (canonical analysis of principal coordinates) results indicate that high resilience sites generally had high values for herbivore biomass, coral diversity, coral cover and bleaching resistance; the opposite is true for sites with medium-low or low resilience (Figure 1). Results are shared within a project report as maps and show spatial variation in relative resilience, as well as spatial variation in each of the 7 resilience indicators included in the analysis.

How successful has it been?
A better understanding of the spatial variation in resilience to climate change in the Florida Reef Tract was gained, which can now be used to inform management decisions. The maps of areas of high and low resilience to climate change will help to prioritize management efforts and decide which actions to implement and where, to best support resilience.

The project was successful in that the planned analysis was completed and report written, and the results were shared with collaborating managers from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Future research and communication activities recommended include:

  • Compile past reef monitoring data to examine trends in resilience indicators and resilience over the last 10 years
  • Examine spatial variation in the resilience of other (than stony corals) key habitat builders, such as barrel sponges, sea fans and soft corals
  • Examine site-based data to review resilience at a higher-resolution than strata
  • Produce fact sheets to educate senior policy and decision-makers on resilience concepts
  • Use resilience information to predict survivorship of corals transplanted from nurseries
  • Develop a dashboard that makes reef monitoring data and resilience summaries available as interactive maps to managers and the public

Funding Summary
Funding for the project was provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, and The Nature Conservancy

Lead Organizations
SymbioSeas and the Marine Applied Research Center
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Nature Conservancy
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

Partners
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
University of Miami RSMAS
NOAA Atlantic and Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory

Resources
Assessing and Monitoring Reef Resilience
Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change in the Florida Reef Tract (pdf, 3.5 M)

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Strategic Communication Mentored Online Course

Comm AnnJanuary 16 – February 8, 2018

Looking to influence behavior or raise awareness about an issue to advance your conservation efforts? A new Strategic Communication Mentored Online Course can help you communicate effectively to reach your conservation goal! This three-week mentored training, which is only a 6-8 hour time commitment, features hands-on exercises, interactive webinars and quizzes, and guidance from mentors and other managers. We’ve demystified strategic communication and simplified the planning process so you can work on your own project as you learn. This course is free and open to anyone, but is geared toward coral reef managers and practitioners. The course content can be found in the communication module.

Important Dates:

  • December 18 – January 16: Course registration is open. Registration closes January 17
  • January 16: Course orientation and introductory webinar (45 minutes)
  • January 17 – January 24: Complete three self-paced lessons and worksheets on the communication planning process: establish your goal & objectives, assess the context for your efforts, and identify your target audience(s) (~2.5 hours)
  • January 25: Webinar 2 – Review concepts and discussion (45 minutes)
  • January 26 – February 7: Complete four self-paced lessons and worksheets on the communication planning process: make your message matter, identify messengers and tactics, measure your impact, and create a summary of your plan (~3.5 hours)
  • February 8: Webinar 3 – Review concepts, discussion, and course conclusion (30 minutes)
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Assisted Evolution: A Novel Tool to Overcome the Conservation Crisis?

Assisted Evolution Announcement PhotoThis symposium was live streamed as part of the Coral Restoration Consortium webinar series in conjunction with The Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and “The Future Ocean” cluster in Kiel. Speakers shared information on new approaches for the conservation of coral reefs such as assisted colonization and assisted evolution and synthetic biology. View the presentation recordings below.

Presentations:

Welcome and introduction – Marlene Wall, Geomar, Germany

Session 1: Shifting paradigms in conservation: social, public and scientific landscape of conservation genetics
Objective: The aim of session 1 is to (i) discuss new approaches for the conservation of natural environments, such as assisted colonization, assisted evolution and synthetic biology and (ii) introduce the current legal, public and scientific framework of novel methods in conservation.

Session 2: Assisted evolution in corals: Opportunities, applications, challenges, and limitations
Objective: The aim is to introduce how assisted evolution might change our way of restoring natural marine environments. What new tools are available that can improve the selection of environmental stress resistance and be implemented in conservation? What are the promises and perils of such approaches?

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Coral Bleaching Futures

Coral Bleaching Futures – Downscaled Projections of Bleaching Conditions for the World’s Coral Reefs, Implications of Climate Policy and Management Responses

Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Global climate models (GCMs) project great spatial variation in the timing of annual severe bleaching (ASB) conditions; a point at which reefs are certain to change and recovery will be limited. Previous model-resolution projections (approximately 1×1°) are too coarse to inform reef management planning (recognized, for example, in SAMOA Pathways, paragraph 44b). To meet the need for higher-resolution projections, this report presents statistically downscaled projections (4-km resolution) of the timing of ASB for all the world’s coral reefs using the newest generation of IPCC climate models (CMIP5). Results are reported by country and territory, grouped in bioregions based on the 10 UNEP Regional Seas programmes with coral reefs (also including countries or territories in or near the Regional Sea area but not participating in the Regional Sea).

Among the goals of the Paris Agreement adopted at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in 2015 is to hold temperature “well below” 2°C while also pursuing efforts to stay below 1.5°C. This legally binding agreement entered into force November 4, 2016. This report evaluates the implications of the Paris Agreement for coral reef futures. Projections of ASB timing are compared between business as usual scenario (RCP8.5) and RCP4.5, which could represent emissions concentrations mid-century. This report makes the projections data and main findings publicly accessible to inform management and policy planning as well as to support education and outreach. The data are currently being used to inform conservation planning in the U.S., including Florida and Hawaii, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Australia, and Malaysia.

Author: United Nations Environment Program
Year: 2017
View Full Article

Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN: 978-92-807-3649-6

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A Guide to Assessing Coral Reef Resilience for Decision Support

Maintaining and restoring resilience is now a major focus of most coral reef managers around the world. A focus on resilience gives us options – and hope – in the face of new and often daunting challenges. Underpinning this is the fact that local actions can positively influence the future of coral reefs, despite powerful external forces like climate change.

As examples, coral recovery from disturbances in Bermuda and the Bahamas has been greater in recent decades than in other parts of the Caribbean. Differences in recovery rates in the Caribbean have been partially attributed to establishing and enforcing fishing regulations, especially on key herbivores such as parrotfish (Jackson et al. 2014).

Overall though, the application of resilience theory to management planning and the day-to-day business of coral reef management has been challenging. One of the key stumbling blocks has been the lack of a robust and easily implementable method for assessing coral reef resilience in a way that can inform marine spatial planning and help to prioritize the implementation of management strategies.

Our ability to assess relative resilience of coral reefs has advanced dramatically in recent years, and we are now at a point where a feasible and useful process can be recommended for use in environmental planning and management.

This Guide presents a 10-step process for completing a resilience assessment, putting into managers’ hands the means to assess, map and monitor coral reef resilience, and the means to identify and prioritize actions that support resilience in the face of climate change. The guidance presented here represents the culmination of over a decade of experience and builds on ideas first presented by West and Salm (2003), Obura and Grimsditch (2009), and McClanahan and coauthors (2012). The resilience assessment process described in the Guide has been applied by the author group in Australia, Florida, CNMI, Guam, Palau, Indonesia, the Cayman Islands, and US Virgin Islands and in many other reef locations by other groups.

This guide is first and foremost intended for the individuals in charge of commissioning, planning, leading or coordinating a resilience assessment. The Guide also provides a resource for ‘reef managers’ of all kinds, including decision-makers, environmental planners and managers in coral reef areas, with influence over pressures affecting coral reefs. Outreach coordinators and educators working in coral reef areas may also benefit from the Guide, and they can participate in parts of the resilience assessment process, but the Guide focuses on the needs of decision-makers and the scientists who support them.

Author: Maynard, J.A., P.A. Marshall, B. Parker, E. Mcleod, G. Ahmadia, R. van Hooidonk, S. Planes, G.J. Williams, L. Raymundo, R. Beeden, J. Tamelander
Year: 2017
View Full Article

ISBN No: 978-92-807-3650-2

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Workshop to Advance the Science and Practice of Coral Restoration

This workshop was held November 15-17, 2016 with the goal of fostering collaboration and technology transfer among coral restoration scientists, practitioners, and managers, and initiating a community of practice that continues to address the evolving role of active coral restoration in the evolutionary history of coral reef ecosystems. The talks cover recent scientific advances in coral biology to help plan and experiment with coral restoration, successes and failures in recent coral restoration projects, and inspiring future research to help advance the practice of coral restoration. The recordings and presentations can be viewed below.

Presentations:

Day 1 – November 15, 2016:

  • Taking coral restoration to the ecosystem scale – Tom Moore, NOAA Coral Reef Restoration Program (Video, Presentation)
  • The role of restoration in coral reef ecosystems – Les Kaufman, Boston University (VideoPresentation)
  • Valuing social benefits of restoration – Mike Beck, The Nature Conservancy (No Video, Presentation)
  • The scientific foundation for successful coral restoration programs – Bob Richmond, University of Hawaii (VideoPresentation)
  • Beyond restoration – intervention ecology – Margaret Miller, NOAA Fisheries Science Center (VideoPresentation)
  • An overview of the use of genetics in coral restoration – Andrew Baker, University of Miami (VideoPresentation)
  • Influence of genotype and the environment – Crawford Drury, University of Miami (VideoPresentation)
  • Thermal trait selections including symbionts – John Parkinson, Oregon State University (VideoPresentation)
  • Phylogenetic tree project overview – Scott Winters, Coral Restoration Foundation (VideoPresentation)
  • Using hybridization to aid restoration – Nikki Fogarty, Nova Southeastern University (No Video, Presentation)
  • Genetic basis of disease resistance – Steve Vollmer, Northeastern University (Video, No Presentation)
  • Disease intervention as a restoration tool – Cheryl Woodley, NOAA/NCCOS (VideoPresentation)
  • Interaction of temperature stress and disease resistance – Erin Muller, Mote Marine Laboratory (No Video, No Presentation)

Day 2 – November 16, 2016:

  • How can we restore reef resilience at scale? – Dirk Petersen, SECORE (No Video, Presentation)
  • Thinking systematically about how we accomplish our day to day restoration work – Andrew Ross, Seascape Caribbean (No Video, Presentation)

Scaling up in-water nurseries

  • Tracking and management of a large nursery – Jessica Levy, Coral Restoration Foundation – Florida (No Video, Presentation)
  • New variations on commonly used nursery structures
  • Prevention of storm damage and experiences
  • Partnerships with resorts and dive operators – Rita Ines Sellares, Dominican Foundation of Marine Studies (VideoPresentation)
  • Managing a volunteer workforce
  • Managing a paid community workforce – Lisa Carne, Fragments of Hope – Belize (VideoPresentation)
  • Reducing diver/coral interaction time – Ken Nedimyer, Coral Restoration Foundation – Florida (VideoPresentation)

Land-based nurseries

  • Trade-offs and BMPs in nursery design – Keri O’Neil, The Florida Aquarium (VideoPresentation)
  • Land-based nurseries as tools for restoration – Scott Graves, The Florida Aquarium (VideoPresentation)
  • Quarantine and health management – Cindy Lewis, Keys Marine Lab/Florida International Univ. (VideoPresentation)
  • Micro-fragging and re-sheeting – Dave Vaughan, Mote Marine Laboratory (No Video, Presentation)

Larval propagation

  • Settlement cues for acroporid larvae – Valerie Paul, Smithsonian Institution (VideoPresentation)
  • Restoring with cryopreserved gametes – Mary Hagedorn, Smithsonian Institution (No Video, No Presentation)
  • Sexual propagation of non-acroporids – Kristen Marhaver, CARMABI – Curaçao (No Video, No Presentation)
  • Scaling-up and reducing the costs – Valerie Chamberland, SECORE – Curaçao (VideoPresentation)
  • Large scale restoration using sexual recruits – Mark van Koningsveld, Van Oord (VideoPresentation)

Scaling-Up Outplanting: Ideas on current best approaches

Scaling-Up Outplanting: Ideas to reduce interaction time and increase efficiency

  • Ken Nedimyer, Coral Restoration Foundation – Florida (VideoPresentation)
  • Victor Manuel Galvan, Punta Cana – Dominican Republic (VideoPresentation)
  • Andrew Ross, Seascape Caribbean – Jamaica (No Video, No Presentation)
  • Tom Moore, NOAA Restoration Center – Florida (VideoPresentation)
  • Anastazia Banaszak, Unversidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (VideoPresentation)
  • Sean Griffin, NOAA Restoration Center – Puerto Rico (VideoPresentation)
  • Sean Griffin, NOAA Restoration Center – Puerto Rico (VideoPresentation)

Day 3 – November 17, 2016:

Optimizing restoration site selection

  • Current approaches to site selection – Christopher Slade, The Nature Conservancy (VideoPresentation)
  • Species distributions and restoration – Shay Viehman, NOAA NCCOS (VideoPresentation)
  • Prioritization of restoration sites through modeling and Zonation – Katie Wirt Ames, FL Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (VideoPresentation)
  • Larval connectivity modeling and restoration – Joana Figueiredo, Nova Southeastern University (No Video, No Presentation)
  • Optimizing for calcification – Ilsa Kuffner, US Geological Survey – Florida (VideoPresentation)
  • Using population models – Alex Molina, SAM – University of Puerto Rico (VideoPresentation)
  • Using population models – Tali Vardi, NOAA Fisheries (VideoPresentation)

Monitoring for ecosystem recovery

  • Review of new, large-area monitoring methods – Stuart Sandin, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Video, No Presentation)
  • Using photo-mosaics to monitor restoration success – Brooke Gintert, University of Miami (VideoPresentation)
  • Snorkeler/GPS monitoring of reef-scale trends – Dana Williams, NOAA – SE Fisheries Science Center (VideoPresentation)
  • Restoration as fish habitat – Michael Nemeth, NOAA Restoration Center (VideoPresentation)
  • Developing programmatic benchmarks – Stephanie Shopmeyer, University of Miami (VideoPresentation)

Next steps

  • Integrating restoration practices in the U.S. – Alison Moulding, NOAA Protected Resources (VideoPresentation)
  • Overview of coral restoration consortium – Jennifer Moore, NOAA Protected Resources (VideoPresentation)
  • Reef managers survey results and reef resilience toolkit – Liz Shaver, Duke University (VideoPresentation)
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Adaptation Design Tool Online Course Announcement

Course banner

Ready to get practical with adapting your management activities in light of climate change, but wondering how to organize what can be a complicated ‘adaptation design’ process? A new course, Corals & Climate Adaptation Planning: Adaptation Design Tool, can help you as a coral reef manager incorporate climate-smart design into your management activities.

This month-long mentored training (8-10 hour time commitment) features interactive lessons, hands-on exercises, webinars, and interaction with experts and other managers. Using real-world examples, you will be guided through the process of incorporating climate change adaptation into a management plan, first using existing planned actions as a starting point, and then through the development of additional climate-smart strategies as needed.

The lessons are based on the user guide, Adaptation Design Tool: Corals & Climate Adaptation Planning, which was developed as a collaborative project of the Climate Change Working Group of the interagency U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and The Nature Conservancy.

This course was designed for coral reef managers but is also fully transferable for use with other systems and applications, such as wetland and watershed management planning. Everyone is welcome!

Important Dates:

  • Course Dates: October 16 – November 17, 2017
  • September 25 – October 16: Course Orientation and Introductory Webinar registration
  • October 16: Course Orientation and Introductory Webinar – Introduction to the Adaptation Design Tool (1 hour)
  • October 17 – November 16: Complete four self-paced lessons and learning exercises (approximately 6 hours)
  • November 6: Webinar 2 – Developing Climate-Smart Design Considerations for Existing Conservation and Management Actions (1.5 hours)
  • November 17: Webinar 3 – Expanding the List of Adaptation Options & Course Conclusion (1 hour)

 

To Register:
The course will open with an orientation webinar held on October 16 at 10:00 AM HST / 4:00 PM ESTRegister here for the Orientation Webinar which will cover how to enroll in the course. If you are not able to take this mentored course, there is a self-study version available here (Note: you will need to create a user account to access the self-study course). If you have questions, please contact us at resilience@tnc.org.

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Restoration Workshop Live Stream

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2725.
This live stream of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Restoration Workshop at the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting was broadcast as part of the of Coral Restoration Consortium webinar series and features two panels highlighting research and restoration of sponge and coral communities and herbivore populations to promote the health and vitality of reef ecosystems. View the presentations below.

Presentations:

Session 1: Sponge Restoration

Session 2: Herbivore and Coral Restoration

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Leading coral science and conservation organizations joining forces to accelerate vital reef restoration work

Photo © Coral Restoration Foundation

Photo © Coral Restoration Foundation

We are pleased to announce the formation of a new Coral Restoration Consortium (CRC). The CRC is a community of practice that comprises scientists, managers, coral restoration practitioners, and educators dedicated to enabling coral reef ecosystems to adapt and survive the 21st century and beyond. The CRC’s mission is to foster collaboration and technology transfer among participants, and to facilitate scientific and practical ingenuity to demonstrate that restoration can achieve meaningful results at scales relevant to reefs in their roles of protecting coastlines, supporting fisheries, and serving as economic engines for coastal communities.

The Reef Resilience Network will be working in partnership with experts from the Coral Restoration Consortium to develop expanded resources for managers on restoration. New online content will be available in October 2017 and will cover the following topics prioritized by a survey of coral reef managers globally:

  • Key considerations to be made before starting a restoration program
  • Methods for propagating branching corals and massive corals
  • Using artificial structures in restoration
  • Promoting ecological processes that enhance coral populations
  • Guidance for enhancing and sustaining your restoration program

To get involved with the CRC:

  • Learn more about the Coral Restoration Consortium
  • CLICK HERE to receive e-mail updates on the CRC’s development, newsletters with scholarly information on restoration, quarterly webinar announcements, and information on how to join Working Groups
  • Watch restoration webinars

 

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