Quantcast

Researchers Use Technology and Nature to Save Hawaii’s Coral Reefs From Invasive Algae

Oceans
A diver with Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources removes invasive algae from a reef using a "super sucker" vacuum. DAR

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the state of Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) have developed an innovative method of removing invasive macroalgae that can smother coral reefs, the University of Hawaii reported Aug. 9.


A combination of removing macroalgae with an underwater "Super Sucker" vacuum and introducing juvenile sea urchins to feed on the remaining algae reduced the amount of algae on a reef off of Oahu, Hawaii by 85 percent, the researchers found.

"This management approach is the first of its kind at the reef-scale," study author and University of Hawaii Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) doctoral candidate Chris Wall said in the university press release. "Our research shows promise as an effective means to reduce invasive macroalgae with minimal environmental impact, while also incorporating a native herbivore to regulate a noxious invasive species."

The combined approach removed more than 40,000 pounds of invasive algae, "outplanted" 99,000 native collector sea urchins and freed almost six acres of reef over a two year period, according to The University of Hawaii.

"The surprise was just how effective this approach was at reducing invasive macroalgae over the two-year period," Wall said.

Few large-scale attempts to remove the algae, which limits biodiversity on the reef by smothering coral, monopolizing the ecosystem and competing with native species, had proven successful in the past, according to the abstract of the study published Aug. 8 in the journal PeerJ.

But the new method isn't just good for ocean ecosystems. It also can benefit the land. The algae collected by the Super Sucker has a second life as fertilizer for local farmers, according to DAR.

The Super Sucker consists of a long hose attached to a pump system housed on a nearby barge. Divers feed the algae into the hose, which sucks it up to the barge where it can be sorted, bagged and delivered to farmers.

A diver uses the Super Sucker to remove algae in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. MeganCookDAR

Macroalgae is rich in nutrients and is used on plants like taro and sweet potato. It is also high in potassium and thought to be an effective insect repellent.

The successful removal of the reef-smothering algae means Hawaii's coral reefs have one less thing to worry about, given the risk posed to coral worldwide due to climate change related problems like ocean acidification and coral bleaching.

"Coral reefs are an important part of the economy, culture, sustenance and recreation of Hawaii," study author and DAR acting administrator Brian J. Neilson told the University of Hawaii. "Local action is instrumental in supporting the resilience of coral reefs. This study provides an important tool that can assist in the management and conservation of coral reefs."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

"It would be great to see all the candidates join Elizabeth Warren in taking the No Big Ag Money Pledge," said Citizens Regeneration Lobby's Alexis Baden-Mayer. Peter Blanchard / Flickr / ric (CC BY 2.0)

By Andrea Germanos

Food system justice and environmental advocates on Wednesday urged all Democratic presidential hopefuls to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in signing a pledge rejecting campaign cash from food and agribusiness corporations.

Read More
A new study shows the impact Native Americans had on landscapes was "small" compared to what followed by Europeans. The findings provide important takeaway for conservation in New England today, seen above in a view of areas surrounding Rangeley Lakes in Maine. Cappi Thompson / Moment / Getty Images

There's a theory going around that Native Americans actively managed the land the lived on, using controlled burns to clear forests. It turns out that theory is wrong. New research shows that Native Americans barely altered the landscape at all. It was the Europeans who did that, as ZME Science reported.

Read More
Sponsored
Loggers operate in an area of lodgepole pine trees killed by the mountain pine beetle in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest on Sept. 13, 2019 in Montana. As climate change makes summers hotter and drier in the Northern Rockies, forests are threatened with increasing wildfire activity, deadly pathogens and insect infestations, including the mountain pine beetle outbreak. The insects have killed more than six million acres of forest across Montana since 2000. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Donald Trump told a crowd at the Davos World Economic Forum Tuesday that the U.S. will join the Forum's 1t.org initiative to restore and conserve one trillion trees around the world, according to The Hill.

Read More
Wild rice flatbread is one of many Native recipes found in Indigikitchen. Indigikitchen

The online cooking show Indigikitchen is providing a platform to help disseminate Indigenous food recipes — while helping eaters recognize their impact on the planet and Native communities.

Read More

On the Solomon Islands, rats and poachers are the two major threats to critically endangered sea turtles. A group of local women have joined forces to help save the animals from extinction.

Read More