East Hawaii News

Scientific Study Explores Hawai’i Coral Reefs

August 20, 2015, 5:50 PM HST
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In efforts to study and reveal the world’s coral reefs, XL Catlin has announced the launch of a new scientific survey, the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, which will explore the health of various coral reefs in Hawai’i.

Scientists from the University of Queensland, alongside the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, will work on the survey, which will capture images of coral habitats in and around the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, spanning areas from the Big Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Oahu.

Images will be collected using a SVII camera and will help gain a comprehensive understanding of the region’s distinctive marine ecosystem and the health of corals found in Hawaiian waters.

Survey findings will aide scientists in understanding and monitoring the potential impacts that environmental and human stressors may have on coral recovery in the future.

A recent study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action, shows that coral cover in Hawai’i has the potential to decline from its current 38 percent to just five percent in 2050 if warming continues.

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Coral bleaching may be the most widely known and common effect of rising seawater temperatures. The bleaching occurs when coral expel their colored algae, The coral becomes white and dies off.

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“Due to location at a relatively high latitude and exposure to variable ocean conditions, Hawai’i is a remarkable place for the study of coral reefs and adds a vital element to our global picture of coral health,” said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the study’s chief scientist. “Despite the increasing global threat to coral reefs from climate change, Hawaiian reefs have remained relatively intact, although future conditions pose a very real threat. Surveying this region is likely to reveal important information on the resilience of coral reefs under the rapid and unprecedented changes in ocean temperature and acidity that are projected.”

Hawai’i has about 410,000 acres of living coral reefs, about 60 percent of the coral reefs in United States waters, and are known for their large diversity of subtropical habitats. Each year, reef-related tourism and recreation brings in $364 million to Hawai’i’s economy and has an estimated $33.57 billion in total economic value, according to a NOAA peer-reviewed study in 2011.

“Working with XL Catlin Seaview Survey will not only allow us to further the scientist research around the region’s coral reefs, but also highlight how ocean stewardship is deeply rooted in the native Hawaiian culture and identity,” said Malia Chow, superintendent of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. “XL Catlin Seaview Study’s mission and use of camera technology resonates with the sanctuary’s strategy of employing a unique ecosystem-based management approach that combines science with the traditional Hawaiian approach to protecting natural and cultural resources.”

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The images will be added to the XL Catlin Global Reef Record, which is an online research tool that allows scientists and researchers locally, regionally, and globally better analyze and monitor changes in global reef ecosystems.

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