The Moorea Coral Reef LTER site encompasses the coral reef complex that surrounds the
island of Moorea, French Polynesia (17°30'S, 149°50'W).
Moorea is a small, triangular volcanic island 20 km west of Tahiti
in the Society Islands of French Polynesia.
Ideal Research Setting
The coastal environments of Moorea offer an unparalleled opportunity for studies of
coral reef ecosystems. An offshore barrier reef forms a system of
shallow (mean depth ~ 5-7 m), narrow (~0.8-1.5 km wide) lagoons around the
60 km perimeter of Moorea. All major coral reef types (e.g.,
fringing reef, lagoon patch reefs, back reef, barrier reef and fore reef)
are present and accessible by small boat.
Prior to 2008, the reefs were in excellent condition and had been subjected to relatively few natural disturbances during the last several decades. A recent outbreak of the crown of thorns seastar (Acanthaster planci) that began in 2007 and a near miss by tropical cyclone Olie in early 2010 significantly reduced the cover of live coral on the fore reef and to differing degrees around the island. This “natural experiment” provides MCR scientists with an unparalleled opportunity to study the processes that influence the recovery of coral reefs from the effects of large disturbances.
Well Developed Infrastructure and Ease of Logistics
The rich research opportunities afforded by the reefs of Moorea are greatly facilitated by
the infrastructure and the ease with which field research can be
conducted. The field portion of the Moorea Coral Reef LTER is staged
Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station
on Cooks Bay on the north shore of Moorea, which has been operated by the
University of California since the early 1980's. Station
facilities include several laboratory buildings, a flow-through sea water
system, a dock, launch ramp, a fleet of small boats and vehicles, a SCUBA
compressor and dive lockers. Station housing includes a dormitory and
several bungalows. The Station has a permanent staff including a
director, two associate directors, administrative assistant, maintenance
personnel, groundskeepers and housekeepers.
Participant in National and International Ecological Networks
The Moorea Coral Reef LTER site became the 26th node in the
U.S. Long-Term Ecological Research
(LTER) program in September of 2004.
Click here to see a map of participating US LTER sites
Click here to see a map of participating LTER countries