Coral reefs around the world are increasingly impacted by rising ocean temperatures, pollution, overfishing and other factors. In Hawaiʻi, the state has committed to protecting 30% of their ocean habitats by 2030 under the state’s Marine 30-by-30 Initiative, which includes expanding coral reef conservation and restoration efforts. Hawaiʻi’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) is currently working with communities and scientists to understand where these efforts can be most successful.
In order to make decisions across the state, managers will need to better understand reef conditions at large spatial scales, including the amount of live and dead coral, sand substrate, and algal cover at reef sites. The Lenfest Ocean Program is supporting Dr. Greg Asner, Director of Arizona State University’s (ASU) Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, to measure changing reef conditions following an acute bleaching event caused by a marine heatwave in 2019.
In this project, Dr. Asner and team will analyze and compare the data they collected from airborne surveys in 2019 and 2020 to understand the extent of coral survival and loss across Hawaiʻi from the marine heatwave. They will then produce maps from those two years showing changes to live and dead coral and macroalgal cover and use this information to work with managers and key partners to develop a reef restoration decision-support analysis that will inform management and conservation efforts under the Marine 30-by-30 Initiative.