A Better Understanding of Coral Reef Ecosystems

Pelagic predators such as these barracuda, Sphyraena qenie, are part of the coral reef ecosystem in the U.S. Line Islands (NOAA Photo by Kevin Lino).
A team of scientists have embarked from Hawai'i on a three-month survey of coral reef ecosystems at Johnston Atoll, the U.S. Phoenix Islands, the islands of American Samoa, and the U.S. Line Islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The overarching objective is to better understand the coral reef ecosystems of these areas, many of which are seldom explored. The research expedition is part of a regular monitoring program, conducted by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), headquartered in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The expedition is supported by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and involves extensive cooperation among NOAA scientists and research partners, including the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego State University, and the Papahānaumaokuākea Marine National Monument.

The research expedition will be carried out from February 27 to May 24, 2012 aboard the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai. Under the leadership of Chief Scientists Dr. Jill Zamzow, Dr. Bernardo Vargas-Angél, and Jamison Gove, a diverse team of researchers will be conducting multidisciplinary coral reef ecosystem surveys, assessing the status of fishes, corals, algae, marine invertebrates, and the oceanographic conditions in which these organisms exist. The scientific data collected during the three-month research expedition will enable informed and effective implementation of ecosystem-based management and conservation strategies for coral reef ecosystems, helping to ensure their protection for generations to come.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kingman Reef

 By Kerry Grimshaw
Kingman Reef from above
We have arrived last stop for this expedition, Kingman Reef. Located nearly halfway between American Samoa and Hawaii (1700 km/1056 mi), Kingman is the northernmost reef of the Line Islands. First discovered by Captain Edmund Fanning in 1798 it was later described in 1953 by the island’s namesake Captain W.E. Kingman. Other pre-twentieth century names for Kingman include Danger Reef, Cladew Reef, Maria Shoal and Crane Shoal. In 1856 Kingman Reef under the name “Danger Reef” was claimed by the US as part of the Guano Islands Act. Kingman was later formally annexed 1922 as an unincorporated U.S. possession of the United States.

The only emergent land at Kingman; a narrow
strip of coral rubble and coarse sand
The lagoon at Kingman Reef was used as a halfway stop for Pan American Airways flying boats in 1937 and 1938 for flights between Hawai’i, American Samoa, and New Zealand. To facilitate this overnight stop a supply ship was stationed at Kingman to provide fuel, lodging and meals. After a fatal explosion shortly after take off from Pago Pago in January 1938, Pan Am stopped flights to New Zealand via Kingman Reef and Pago Pago. A new route was later established through Canton Island and New Caledonia. In 1941 the US Navy assumed control of Kingman and maintained its jurisdiction until 2000. Kingman Reef was established as a National Wildlife Refuge on January 18, 2001. On January 6, 2009 Kingman Reef was designated as part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
A cluster of Giant Clams (Tridacna maxima )
at Kingman Reef

Kingman Reef is an uninhabited, triangular shaped reef that is mostly submerged. A small, single strip of “dry land” composed of mainly of dead and dried coral skeletons, is located on the eastern rim of the reef. With the highest point of land at approximately 1 meter, the island is often awash during high tide and is inhospitable for most organisms. Despite the harsh surface conditions Kingman Reef supports a vast variety of marine life below. Approximately 130 species of corals are known at Kingman and giant clams are abundant in shallow waters. Predators dominate the waters at Kingman similarly to most of the uninhabited islands we visit.
Oceanographer Chip Young surveys
the reef at Kingman

We’ll be here for the next 6 days conducting our standard suite of work before beginning the transit home.

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