In July 2017, NOAA awarded $250,000 in funding to The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Hawai‘i to continue activities and efforts to manage coral reefs and watersheds in West Hawai‘i. This award builds upon the partnership between NOAA and TNC established in 2014 as part of the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area, one of 10 Habitat Focus Areas across the country. For more information on the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area, please visit the NOAA Habitat Blueprint website.
West Hawai‘i is home to some of the State's longest adjoining coral reefs. These diverse and vibrant reefs support a variety of fish and coral species, and they are culturally and economically important to the local communities. Unfortunately, coral reefs are vulnerable to multiple threats, including rising ocean temperatures that cause coral bleaching, the delivery of excess nutrients, bacterial pathogens, eroded sediments from land-use change, and the unsustainable harvest of fishes. To deal with these threats, NOAA developed the following objectives:
- Objective I: Improve coral health by reducing land-based pollutants, such as sediments and excess nutrients
- Objective II: Reduce vulnerability of communities and natural resources to the localized effects of climate change
- Objective III: Ensure that communities are informed and contribute to the sustainable use and restoration of natural resources
- Objective IV: Provide better management tools and easily accessible information for informed decisions
Over the past few years, NOAA and TNC engaged in a direct collaborative effort to work closely with a variety of external partners — the United States Geological Survey, the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, the University of Hawai‘i, and various community organizations — on implementing key activities to address the objectives above. Some of these key activities include projects that map erosion hot spots (that is, locations most susceptible to erosion), improve coral reef resilience to threats like stress and bleaching, restore fishponds, and develop community networks and action plans that promote grassroots community-based approaches to sustainable resource management and restoration.
The future work funded by this award to TNC will focus on synthesizing the results from the activities mentioned above, amongst others, as well as developing recommendations with the communities, landowners, State agencies, and private businesses that promote sustainable management of marine and terrestrial resources.