Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less
Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less