The west coast of the island of Hawai‘i is home to a highly productive and diverse marine ecosystem. West Hawai‘i has the longest continuous coral reef in the main Hawaiian Islands, supporting an abundance of tropical corals, reef fishes, sea turtles, cetaceans, and manta rays. The marine resources in the region provide many ecosystem services of value to people, including recreation, protection from wave and storm impacts, seafood, and the preservation of cultural practices.
In recent decades, the ecological processes underlying this dynamic region are increasingly being altered. Local stressors such as coastal development, wastewater pollution, sedimentation, and fishing pressure are undermining marine ecosystem function. Impacts of climate change, such as increasing sea surface temperatures and rising sea levels, are exacerbating these local stressors, contributing to the overall decline in the condition of coral reef ecosystems in west Hawai‘i.
An ecosystem-based management approach that recognizes the importance of interacting social and ecological systems is needed to effectively conserve the marine ecosystem and associated services in west Hawai‘i. Ecosystem-based management broadens the focus of management to the entire ecosystem and specifically links the actions of society to the ecological system. The goal is to better understand, and therefore manage, how those societal actions influence the many ecosystem services and benefits, and associated values.
The West Hawai‘i Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) provides a framework to inform decisions in ecosystem-based management across multiple sectors and multiple scales in the region. In contrast to more conventional approaches to resource management, an IEA considers interactions among ecosystem components and recognizes that human activities should be guided using collaborative, interdisciplinary, and adaptive methods. As such, the West Hawai‘i IEA recognizes that an understanding of the whole, not simply the individual components, is necessary to conserve marine ecosystems and the services they deliver.
For more information on the national program, visit NOAA's Integrated Ecosystem Assessments.
If you have any questions about the West Hawai‘i IEA program, please contact:
Phone: (808) 725-5570