Coastal ecosystems

Small plants are growing in numerous pots in a laboratory setting

Vulnerability of Coastal Ecosystems to Increased Salinity from Climate Change

PI: Kasey Barton
Critical Hawaiian coastal habitats are at risk from climate change impacts, particularly sea-level rise, which threaten protective coastal plant species. This work examines the salinity tolerance of native, and invasive, coastal plants to identify those in need of greater management and conservation action.
A water hazard sign sits near a beach

Tracking groundwater nutrients using novel tracers to inform coastal watershed management in South Kohala, Hawaiʻi

PI: Henrietta Dulai
Using a combination of nitrogen isotopes and microcontaminants as source tracers, this project aims to identify pathways of groundwater flow to the coastline along South Kohala, Hawaiʻi, tracing sources of groundwater contaminants and excess nutrients. Managers can use results to improve wastewater management and improve coral reef resilience.
A split image with the left showing a researcher adding dye to the top of a cesspool, and the right showing a natural rock-enclosed pool dyed green.

Identifying hot spots of sewage pollution in Hilo, Hawaiʻi

PI: Tracy Wiegner
Hawaiʻi banned new cesspools in 2015, but groundwater contamination from the remaining 8700 cesspools in the Hilo area is a continuing concern. This work will use dye tracer studies to track cesspool outflows and use sewage indicators to establish contaminant sources to coastal groundwaters to inform future management decisions.
Google Earth image showing small round brown reefs with brighter rings around them

What can seascape-scale vegetation patterns on coral reefs tell us about reef health?

PI: Elizabeth Madin
Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by changing conditions yet are often remote and hard to monitor. This project will use drone-based imagery to explore how coral “halos” are linked to reef ecosystem health, and whether that health may change over time where protective measures are instituted.
Map view image showing 2/3 of pond-ringing mangrove removed between 2007 and 2017 and project sampling sites

Microbial biogeochemical cycling across a chronosequence of mangrove introductions across Hawaiʻi

PI: Rosanna Alegado
Invasive mangroves harm Hawaiian coastal ecosystems, choking native plants, providing footholds for invasives, and generating leaf litter mounds inedible to Hawaiian species. This study investigates whether microbial communities can evolve to tackle the detritus and examines the resilience of our coastal ecosystems to mangrove invasion.
A school of fish swim over a reef

Land-based pollutants on Hawaiian reefs

PI: Megan Donahue
Increased military, agricultural, and residential development contaminates surrounding watersheds that feed into critical coastal ecosystems. This work examines land-based pollutants, such as metals and persistant organics, in coastal ecosystems and reef fish to understand how the pollutants are distributed and transported, with an eye toward better land management decisions.
Model with a shoreline and buildings

Envisioning In Situ Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategies for a Densely Developed Coastal Community, Waikiki

PI: Wendy Meguro
Waikiki, an economic hub for Hawaiʻi, is already subject to regularly flooding and faces an uncertain future with sea-level rise. This project will offer conceptual design renderings towards an “in-place” adaptation strategy, to help motivate large-scale planning for an adaptive environment in this densely developed coastal community.
Against the backdrop of the Pali mountainscape, a long line of volunteers prepare to plant

Enhancing social-ecological resilience and ecosystem services through restoration of coastal agroforestry systems

PI: Leah Bremer
Using ongoing restoration efforts at Heʻeia, Oʻahu, this research examines the ecological, economic, and cultural benefits of coastal agroforestry restoration in order to produce state-wide recommendations for prime locations to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services of high interest to agencies, funding sources, and communities.
A view back towards land across the fishpond showing a cluster of trees on the shoreline next to a denuded area of very few mangrove trees

Effects of watershed restoration to traditional Hawaiian land use practices on health of nearshore coral reef ecosystems

PI: Robert Toonen
Reimplementation of traditional practices in the Heʻeia ahupuaʻa, in addition to invasive mangrove removal, has been predicted to support improvements to the coastal ecosystems of Kānoʻohe Bay. This study will examine effects on water quality and changes to coral reef health, in response to restoration efforts.
On a rocky shoreline, one student crouches next to a bucket while another stands ready to write on a clipboard

Differentiating treated and untreated wastewater contamination in a tropical coastal community using microbial community genomics

PI: Craig Nelson
There is growing concern that coastal ecosystems are threatened by sewage contamination of groundwaters. Using genomic methods, this project will examine the bacterial populations in the Keaukaha area of Hawaiʻi Island, to differentiate sources of contamination, and aid in management efforts to ameliorate sewage leakage.