Scientists Monitor Coral Reef Ecosystems around the Main Hawaiian Islands

August 1, 2013
Up to five small boats with teams of divers will be deployed daily to conduct fish, benthic, and oceanographic surveys and deploy 
                 biological monitoring installations. NOAA photo by Darla White.
Up to five small boats with teams of divers will be deployed daily to conduct fish, benthic, and oceanographic surveys and deploy biological monitoring installations. NOAA photo by Darla White.
Oceanographic and water-quality surveys will be an integral component of investigations. NOAA photo by Noah Pomeroy.
Oceanographic and water-quality surveys will be an integral component of investigations. NOAA photo by Noah Pomeroy.
Surveys to assess the diversity, abundance, and size structure of reef fish and benthic assemblages will be conducted around each 
                 island at sites selected with a stratified-random sampling design. NOAA photo by Courtney Couch.
Surveys to assess the diversity, abundance, and size structure of reef fish and benthic assemblages will be conducted around each island at sites selected with a stratified-random sampling design. NOAA photo by Courtney Couch.

Scientists of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division embarked today on a 23-day mission aboard the NOAA Ship Hiʻialakai to study coral reef ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands. This expedition marks the fifth such research cruise in these islands by PIFSC researchers. The PIFSC research team is joined by scientists from San Diego State University.

The expedition is part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan of NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. This long-term, program is designed to provide a consistent, comparable flow of information to document and report the status and trends of all aspects of coral reef ecosystems, including environmental conditions, living resources, the people who use the reef and its resources, and the processes that interact with them. The Hiʻialakai studies complement work done by local agencies as part of long-term coral reef monitoring.

The scientific party will survey sites around Kauaʻi, Niʻihau, Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, and the island of Hawaiʻi, deploying small boats from the Hiʻialakai to reach study areas, including locations along the windward coasts of many of these islands and near the channels between islands. Around Oʻahu, similar monitoring work will be executed this October with small boats deployed from shore.

Under the direction of Chief Scientist Dr. Bernardo Vargas-Ángel (NOAA-University of Hawaiʻi Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research), teams of scuba divers will conduct Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs) of reef fishes, corals, other invertebrates, and algae. Autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) will be retrieved and deployed to assess the taxonomic diversity of coral reef species. Other scientists aboard the Hiʻialakai will collect data on water temperature, salinity, carbonate chemistry, and other physical characteristics of the coral reef environment with an assortment of oceanographic monitoring instruments. During the mission, calcification assessment units (CAUs) and bioerosion monitoring units (BMUs) will be used to assess the potential early effects of ocean acidification on rates of reef carbonate accretion and coral calcification.

Data collected during this scientific mission are pivotal to long-term biological and oceanographic monitoring of coral reef ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago. The expedition will add to information collected during baseline monitoring and mapping surveys conducted in the main Hawaiian Islands in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010. In particular, data on the abundance and spatial distribution of reef fishes and benthic organisms will allow scientists to evaluate potential changes in the condition and integrity of coral reef ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago and enable Federal and State resource managers to more effectively manage and conserve reef-associated animal and plant life in the region.

Generalized Survey Areas for Hawaiʻi Island.
Generalized Survey Areas for Hawaiʻi Island.
Generalized Survey Areas for the islands of Maui, Lānaʻi, and Molokaʻi.
Generalized Survey Areas for the islands of Maui, Lānaʻi, and Molokaʻi.
Generalized Survey Areas for the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau.
Generalized Survey Areas for the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau.
Generalized Survey Areas for the island of Oʻahu.
Generalized Survey Areas for the island of Oʻahu.