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Coastal ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, around the world are being impacted by anthropogenic stressors, such as sedimentation, runoff, and eutrophication. Water quality, therefore, is a major concern for coastal areas with nearshore reefs. The Native Hawaiians used a holistic land management practice that carved the land into ahupua'a, divisions which ran from the mountain to the sea. Changes in land use have disrupted these divisions, however.
Over the past two centuries in particular, He'eia wetlands have undergone numerous changes in land use. Under the skilled hands of native Hawaiians, He'eia wetlands were places of abundant taro production, where the healthy wetlands served as a repository for nutrients, sediment, and freshwater, preventing them from reaching the reefs below.
In the mid-1800's, He'eia was converted for cash crops and cattle, resulting in increased sediment and runoff into He'eia Stream and subsequently Kane'ohe Bay. For the past few decades, the once bountiful wetlands of He'eia have lain fallow, and are now overgrown with invasive species.
A local non-profit, Kako'o 'Oiwi, is restoring He'eia to its roots, removing invasives and returning the land to productive taro patches. Our research explores how this restoration process affects water quality by looking at abiotic factors such as pH, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient content. In addition, we are utilizing a bioassay to determine how these waters may affect biology downstream in the bay.
Advisor: Dr. Florence Thomas