Coral Reef NOAA
May 31, 2016  

Cruise Monitors Coral Reef Ecosystems of Main Hawaiian Islands

submersible being lowered to the water's surface from a ship crane and a close up of a scientist sorting specimens collected on a mission
Divers conducting belt transect surveys on the North Kohala Coast of the Big Island. Photo credit: NOAA, Darla White

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On November 5, scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai returned to Honolulu from a 30-day mission to study coral reef ecosystems in the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). This is the fourth expedition by staff of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) and partner agencies to assess and monitor reef-associated plant and animal life in this region. Biennial Reef Assessment Monitoring Program cruises have monitored conditions in this region since 2000 and are funded by the CRCP.

Divers surveying along 25-m transect lines conducted rapid ecological assessment surveys of reef fishes, corals, other invertebrates, and algae. Towed-diver surveys were conducted for larger-scale assessments. Diversity of coral reefs will be evaluated by retrieved autonomous reef monitoring structures previously placed on the seafloor. Other scientists aboard the Hi`ialakai collected data on water temperature, salinity, and other physical characteristics of the coral reef environment using an assortment of oceanographic sampling and monitoring instruments.

Data collected during this mission are pivotal to long-term biological and oceanographic monitoring of coral reef ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago. The 2010 expedition will add to information collected during monitoring and mapping surveys conducted in 2005, 2006, and 2008. Data on the abundance and spatial distribution of reef fishes, invertebrates, corals, and algae will allow scientists to evaluate potential changes in the condition and integrity of coral reef ecosystems in the Hawaiian Archipelago and enable federal and state resource managers to more effectively conserve coral reefs ecosystems of the MHI and manage ecosystem services.