Hawaiʻi Coral Health Surveys

The Coral Reef Ecology Team is dedicated to ongoing work focusing on anthropogenic impacts on coral reefs. We are currently conducted coral health surveys in Kāneʻohe Bay and Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to better understand how humans shape coral reefs.

Hā‘ena CBSFA (2016-2020)

Haena.pngThe Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (CBSFA) in waters off Hā‘ena, Kaua‘i is an area of special interest to the State of Hawai‘i. The purpose of this five-year project is to assist the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) in evaluating this Hā‘ena CBSFA special management area. Monitoring inside and outside this region will be critical in determining the efficacy of any marine remedial management actions. We are partnering with DOBOR, DAR Maui Monitoring, DAR Oahu Monitoring, DAR Invasive Species and the Kauai Education and Outreach teams to survey 100 random locations annually using the Kauai Assessment Habitat Utilization (KAHU) methodology for fishes, benthic components, and urchins. Sediment grain-sizes and composition will be also determined. Temperature loggers have been deployed at 25 stations throughout the area.

Pila’a, Kaua’i (2016-2020)

Pilaa.pngIn 2001, our lab surveyed the extensive damage to a reef downstream from a large site where illegal grading took place at Pila‘a, Kaua‘i. Our survey results and court testimony assisted in securing the largest unprecedented settlement to the State of Hawai‘i for reef damage. The initial baseline survey will be repeated using the same methods in order to document recovery. We have begun assessments using the Kaua’i Assessment Habitat Utilization (KAHU) methodology for comparability with other sites. We are determining coral recruitment rates using standard recruitment arrays and establishing a long-term monitoring site to document any changes in fish and benthic populations. In collaboration with USGS we will be analyzing the record of coral growth and sedimentation over past centuries through coring large corals. This method identifies annual bands and the sedimentation signature within each band over the length of long cores.

Statewide Monitoring CRAMP (1998-ongoing)

CRAMP.pngIn 1998 when we developed the Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (CRAMP) in response to management needs, there was no long-term widespread monitoring program in this state. It was vital to get a baseline of what our reefs looked like, to recognize any changes that may occur, and to identify any impacts that are affecting these reefs. Over 60 sites span the full spectrum of habitats, encompassing the full latitudinal range and include the entire range of protection status from open access sites with no other legal protection except what applies to the entire state to fully protected sites, and a gradient of natural and anthropogenic impacts. This extensive dataset is being used to find trends and patterns on a statewide, island, and site scale and identify forcing functions that drive them. Researchers, managers, and educators are utilizing the data for a wide variety of purposes. We currently partner with the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources to monitor sites and to set up new sites such as the one planned for Pila‘a, on Kaua‘i.

HBNP Biological Carrying Capacity (2017-2018)

hanuama bay.pngThe Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (HBNP) project will assess anthropogenic use and global impacts in relation to biological carrying capacity. A review of historical data, resurveys of long-term monitoring sites, documentation of temperatures and currents, predictive modeling, and the determination of the physical condition of fish and coral communities will be conducted. Recommendations of management strategies and educational approaches will be provided.

Ridge to Reef Connections (2015-2017)

We are currently developing protocols that prioritize watersheds and coastal waters for protection and restoration in Hawai’i. Quantitative watershed and coral reef condition indices are being integrated with a GIS-based, predictive model to produce geographically realistic planning and evaluation tools. We are integrating quantitative model output from terrestrial watershed and coral reef condition indices to evaluate the ecological condition of the “ridge to reef” system. This project will provide spatial maps to determine which of the 580 watersheds in the state have the strongest connections to adjacent reefs and would most benefit from watershed restoration efforts. This will help address the scientific needs of the agencies responsible for the management and mitigation of Hawaiian coral reef ecosystems. This project will conclude in 2018.

Pelekane Bay

Our lab has conducted multiple coral reef studies in Pelekane Bay and the larger Kawaihae area since 1995 to better understand the response of the reef community to cumulative human impacts, effectiveness of management measures, and recovery potential. The most recent studies between 2010 and the present focus on key biological and ecological processes investigating coral settlement, growth, partial-mortality, and community structures in relation to land-based sedimentation and environmental quality. These studies in Pelekane Bay were carried out collaboratively with federal government agencies, and non-governmental organizations, and the community to address the broader issues of land-derived impacts on coral reefs.  Our findings suggest significant impacts of sedimentation on biological and ecological processes of corals and recovery potential.