Coral reef communities on the Island of Hawaii have been heavily affected by the construction of Kawaihae Harbor in the 1950s and by subsequent changes in land use in the adjacent watershed. Sedimentation and other forms of land-based pollution have led to declines in water quality and coral reef health over the past two decades (Tissot, 1998). Erosion mitigation efforts are underway on land, and there is a need to evaluate the impact of these actions on the adjacent coastal ecosystem. The Kohala Center and Kohala Watershed Partnership was awarded $2.69 million from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Restoration Center as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to stabilize soil and improve land-use practices in the Pelekane Bay watershed. The grant allowed the Kohala Watershed Partnership to implement various upland watershed management activities to reduce land-based sources of pollution into Pelekane Bay. However, a number of questions must be answered in order to: (1) evaluate the effectiveness of the terrestrial watershed remediation efforts; (2) understand the potential of the local marine ecosystem to recover; and (3) understand the potential threat that existing mud deposits in the bay pose to adjacent, relatively pristine coral reef ecosystems. The goal of this experiment was to help address these questions and establish a framework to evaluate the success of the Kohala Watershed Partnership restoration efforts. This research program will also provide resource managers with information relevant to other watershed restoration efforts currently being planned in neighboring watersheds. This project involved an interdisciplinary team of coral reef biologists from the University of Hawaii Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program, who focused on the impact of sedimentation on the biota of Pelekane Bay, and a team of geologists and oceanographers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), who focused on the circulation and sediment dynamics in Pelekane and Kawaihae Bays. The initial findings from the USGS research program are described in this report. These measurements support the ongoing studies being conducted as part of the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program’s Pacific Coral Reef Project to better understand the effect of geologic and oceanographic processes on coral reef systems.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Coastal circulation and sediment dynamics in Pelekane and Kawaihae Bays, Hawaii--measurements of waves, currents, temperature, salinity, turbidity, and geochronology: November 2010--March 2011