Research Projects 2014-2016

Groundwater-derived nutrient uptake in coastal ecosystems as driver of reef accretion-erosion balance

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Florence Thomas
Co-INVESTIGATORS: Henrietta Dulai, Megan Donahue
Graduate Trainee: Florybeth LaValle

Invasive algae thrives on coral when excessive nutrients are introduced to the offshore by runoff and groundwater input.

For coral reefs to persist grown of the reef must exceed the erosion of the reef due to chemical and biological erosion. Inputs of nutrients onto coral reefs can control the growth of organisms within the reef system and physiological processes associated with these organisms can modify the chemistry of the water over the reef in many ways. These processes result in complex feedbacks between nutrient supply, algal growth, and coral reef resilience. It is important for us to understand these interactions, thus this research integrates a study of ground water sources, nutrient processing by organisms on the growth and erosion of corals. Our goals are to quantify nutrient inputs on the reef at Maunalua Bay, measure nutrient uptake by the organisms on the reef flat and growth of the reef. The outcomes of this study will be a GIS based map that will allow managers and community members to visualize groundwater inputs on the reef as well as the nutrient cycling capacity of the organisms present and the potential growth or erosion of the reef under different nutrient input scenarios.