Hawaii and NOAA Corals Partner on Healthier Reefs

The Takeaway: NOAA works to bolster reef resilience and lessen stressors.

A mass bleaching event in 2014-2015 caused intense damage to Hawaii coral reefs, with reef mortality in some areas topping 50 percent. NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program plays a vital role in a partnership to bring some damaged areas back to life and make reefs stronger against threats. Use of a tool featured on Digital Coast also aids the resilience effort.

A partnership between NOAA’s Coral Reef Monitoring Program and Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources helped accomplish the daunting task of monitoring damage and recovery across an entire archipelago, with a level of detail not otherwise available. Their damage-assessment baseline will help scientists measure ongoing reef recovery.

NOAA Corals and the state division also support Hawaii’s 30 x 30 Initiative, which aims to effectively manage 30 percent of the state’s nearshore ocean waters by 2030. Many scientists say at least 30 percent of nearshore areas must remain healthy for overall reef productivity.

Fish with a plants-only diet support healthy reefs and nearshore areas by balancing algae and coral competition, and by creating space for new coral growth, a critical factor in post-bleaching recovery. Two types of spatial analysis software by partners—Marxan, featured on Digital Coast, and Sea Sketch—are helping to identify nearshore areas that would maximize the contributions of herbivorous fish while allowing for other ocean uses.

Support from the Coral Program and state Division of Aquatic Resources is made possible by a NOAA cooperative agreement. (2019)

More Information: Herbivore-Driven Reef Resilience

Partners: McClintock Lab at the University of California-Santa Barbara, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions, The Nature Conservancy, University of Queensland-Australia, and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, Digital Coast, and Hawaii Coral Reef Initiative