Finally some good news for Maui’s coral reefs. After years of declining health, it appears the state may be able to enhance the resiliency of our coral reefs. A recent survey of over 51 sites in Maui’s south (Kihei side) and west (Lahaina side) shores showed the most resilient reefs are located in state managed areas and adjacent to federal wildlife refuges. Researchers believe that if managed correctly, Maui coral reefs can be protected from natural and unnatural causes of death.
Before we get to the solution, let’s take a look at the dangers coral reefs currently face. There are two major reasons for the decline in the health of coral. Climate change appears to be a big factor in coral die-offs. In 2015, a massive coral bleaching event killed up to 90% of the coral on some reefs. That event was triggered by unusually high ocean temperatures. Another issue facing coral is when land-based sediment (often carrying nutrients) reaches the ocean. This normally occurs during run-off from storms. The sediment issue has been enhanced in recent years due to development, especially in West Maui. Overfishing is another issue.
Dr. Eric Conklin, director of marine science for TNC Hawaii told Maui Time:
The threats facing Maui’s reefs vary from site to site, so management actions need to be tailored to address those threats. Communities and state agencies can use this information to make decisions about how best to manage our reefs – not just for the conditions of today but for the conditions that are coming.
This individualized approach, as opposed to a one-size fits all approach, to to reef management is a new tactic to fight off coral mortality. So far, it appears to be working. For that, we can all be thankful!
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