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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Good bye to Maui County, hello to O'ahu

By Mary Donovan

After 5 days of surveys in Maui and 3 days in Lāna'i and Moloka'i with the great weather, we are heading to O'ahu. People who have not been to O'ahu may picture the island based on some movies and television shows such as Lost and the most recent, Hawaii Five-O. It is home to the scientists of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division. We will do surveys around O'ahu for a couple of days before some of us disembark and the ship heads to Kaua'i County.

'Oahu is the most populated island in the State of Hawai'i, with the population of 880,000 (U.S. Census 2000). High rise condos and hotels in Honolulu district show the development of the Island. Its great location and accessibility also attract tourists from all over the world. In each month of 2009, more than 300,000 people visited to O'ahu (Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, State of Hawai'i). At night, it is the one of the brightest places in the Pacific Ocean. 
The earth at night. The main Hawaiian Islands are within the circle. Source: Image and data processing by NOAA National Geophysical Data Center.

Marine ecosystems associated with high human populations have traditionally suffered the consequences of overfishing, pollution, and invasive species (just to name a few). Directly or indirectly, human lives and activities negatively impact the natural environment, and the marine/coastal environment is not an exception. Our work around O'ahu will help us understand how coral reef systems in the proximity of high human populations are different from those without those stressors. With this insight, we hope to educate people about the importance of taking care of our marine environment so we can continue to enjoy our weekends at beautiful beaches!!

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