Watch this page for news from the USGS Coral Reef Project.
Source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/837163. The image is released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.
International scientists counter threat of flooding on coral reef coasts
Read the entire article in this Deltares Press Release, November 2017.
Scientists have developed a computer simulation tool to predict short-term flood hazards on coral-reef-lined coasts and to assess longer-term impacts from climate change. The assessments will give input to estimate societal or economic risk and damage from such flooding. The tool can be used to play “what-if” games and ask questions such as, “how will flood risk change if the coral on this reef dies, or if sea level rises by more than 1 meter?” . . .
Read the entire article in this Deltares Press Release.
Story was also reprinted in AGU's GeoSpace blog.
Healthy elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) like this provides the critical ecosystem service of building the reef crest that protects shorelines during storms.
Coral reef decline may have exacerbated flooding by Hurricane Irma
USGS geologist Curt Storlazzi spoke to Chelsea Harvey of the Washington Post on September 7 about the role of coral reefs in protecting coastlines from storms like Hurricane Irma. Storlazzi confirmed that recent deterioration of coral reefs would likely result in greater flooding. Healthy coral reefs protect coasts by dissipating wave energy some distance from the shoreline. Storlazzi shared information from two papers he co-authored: “The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation” (Nature Communications, 2014) and “The influence of coral reefs and climate change on wave-driven flooding of tropical coastlines” (Geophysical Research Letters, 2015). He leads the USGS Coral Reef Project. Harvey’s article, “Scientists say damage to Florida’s coral reef has made the state more vulnerable to storm surges,” was published September 12.
Instrument package mounted to the seaward slope of a coral reef off southwestern Puerto Rico. [Larger version]
Deep deployment of instruments to study coral reef structure and health off Puerto Rico
An instrument package developed by the USGS was placed on the seaward slope of a coral reef off southwestern Puerto Rico on July 27. Collaborators from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez deployed the instrument package at a depth of 177 feet—the deepest deployment yet of instruments to measure currents and suspended sediment in a coral reef environment. The researchers want to measure how much volcanic sediment (derived from land) and carbonate sediment (derived from the reef) are moving off the reef. They are also exploring how deep currents move cool, nutrient-rich water up the slope. This water can offset stress caused by global warming of surface waters and provide food for stressed corals. USGS scientist Cordell Johnson designed and built the instrument mount for delicate emplacement by technical divers.
Curt Storlazzi installing a temperature sensor near the coral reef off Makua, Kauai, to try to detect fresh, cold, submarine groundwater seeping from the seabed. Groundwater can carry nutrients and contaminants that harm corals and may be causing the coral disease outbreak in the area. [Larger version]
USGS scientist quoted in news article about connection between watersheds and coral reefs
USGS research oceanographer Curt Storlazzi was quoted in an article in The Garden Island newspaper (Kauai, Hawaiʻi) about the connection between watershed practices and the health of coral reefs. The article appeared March 20, 2017. Storlazzi is a leader of the USGS Coral Reefs project.
Oblique map of seafloor habitats off Kawaihae, Hawaiʻi, developed from satellite imagery, underwater towed video, and lidar (airborne laser) bathymetry. Image credit: Susan Cochran, USGS
USGS scientist describes techniques for mapping coral reefs
USGS geologist Curt Storlazzi explains how the USGS uses multiple techniques to map coral reefs in “Mapping Methods Prove Helpful in Protecting Coral Reefs,” published February 10, 2017, in POB. Storlazzi leads the USGS Pacific Coral Reefs project. POB, for “Point of Beginning,” a surveyor’s term, is a newsletter for professional surveyors and mappers.
What’s Drifting Beneath Kauai’s Ocean?
Filmed and produced by Amy West: Residents and visitors both revel in Kauai’s lush landscape, and beneath its seascape. However, it’s underwater where things don’t look so healthy—at least not here at Makua Beach. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey got a detailed picture of the coral reef’s physical environment. Understanding just what these reefs are exposed to and for how long, may help explain why some corals here have succumbed to black band disease. View the video!
Tripod holding instruments and cameras used to measure and study aspects of sediment movement in and around the reef.
New video highlights major coral reef study by USGS and Australian scientists
A new video, “Breaking Down Reefs, Building Up Beaches,” follows coral reef experts from the USGS and the University of Western Australia as they conduct the largest-ever hydrodynamic study of how coral reefs shape coasts. The scientists spent two weeks in May 2016 installing instruments to measure currents and sediment movement in and around Australia’s largest fringing reef, in the Ningaloo Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site, Western Australia. Over the next two months, the instruments collected massive amounts of data that will give scientists great insight into the protective role of reefs and will help the USGS forecast what could happen to U.S. fringing reefs in the face of climate change and sea-level rise. View the video.
Institute For Figuring's Crochet Coral Reef project, 2005-ongoing. Photo © the IFF. [Larger version]
USGS coral expert in wide-ranging panel discussion on “Understanding Coral Reefs”
Research oceanographer Curt Storlazzi (Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center) served as a shallow-water coral expert in a panel discussion titled “Understanding Coral Reefs through Marine Science and Woolly Sculptures.” The free public event took place October 20, 2016, at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, affiliated with the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Storlazzi was joined by deep-sea coral expert Matt McCarthy of UCSC and science communicator Margaret Wertheim. Wertheim’s projects include Crochet Coral Reef, the largest participatory art/science project in the world. The panel explored the interweaving of science and art, with a focus on coral reefs and the challenges that sea-level rise, climate change, and human-driven stressors pose to their health and sustainability.
Left to right: Curt Storlazzi, Peter Swarzenski, and Christina Kellogg during a 2015 survey of the field area in Kauai, to which Storlazzi and Kellogg returned for more concentrated work in summer 2016. Photo by Amy West, USGS. [Larger version]
USGS Research on Diseased Hawaiian Corals Featured in Newspaper and Radio Interviews
Newspaper and radio reporters in Kauai, Hawaiʻi, interviewed USGS researchers on possible causes of a black band coral disease outbreak on the island’s north shore. In an article in the Garden Island newspaper, research geologist Curt Storlazzi of the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center explained that fresh groundwater entering the ocean from seafloor seeps could stress nearby corals. He led a USGS team July 29–August 5 to gather evidence for submarine groundwater discharge, collect water samples to test for nutrients and contaminants, and measure currents to determine how they might concentrate or disperse groundwater after it enters the ocean. Storlazzi’s collaborator Chris Kellogg, research microbiologist with the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, spoke about the black band work on Hawaii Public Radio.
Scientists from the USGS Pacific Coral Reef Project presented nine papers and co-chaired two sessions at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu HI. In addition, scientists from the USGS also co-led a post-conference field trip entitled "Managing Maui's MPAs: From Watersheds to Co-Management" that introduced participants to four distinct coral reefs in Maui in which various methods of marine management are involved.
USGS Researchers from the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California, have just completed a collaborative effort with the University of Western Australia, at Jurabi in the Ningaloo UNESCO World Heritage Site in Western Australia. This was the largest, most intensive study of coral reef hydrodynamics, ever!
Scientists from the USGS in Santa Cruz CA collaborated with colleagues from the USGS in St. Petersburg FL to investigate the links between land-based pollutants and coral reef health on the west coast of the island of Maui. Read more about their field experiments and studies in the April/May 2016 edition of USGS Newsletter, Sound Waves.
October 2015—Scientists from the USGS in Santa Cruz attended the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Meeting in Puerto Rico to report on work being done in both the Kahekili (Maui, HI) and Faga'alu Bay (American Samoa) priority watersheds.
August 2015—The USGS Sound Waves monthly online newsletter featured an item about a newly published article from a collaboration between Deltares and the USGS, which looked at how climate change affects a coral reef's ability to mitigate coastal hazards. Read the Sound Waves newletter article here.
March 2015—We traveled to Hawaiʻi to conduct initial reconnaissance to understand the potential linkages between submarine groundwater discharge and coral disease on the north shore of the island of Kauaʻi.
February/March 2015—USGS scientists travel to the National Park of American Samoa (NPSA) on the north shore of Tutuila Island to to conduct an experiment to understand controls on flow patterns and water-column properties in the Park's waters as related to larval and potential nutrient/contaminant retention and/or dispersal patterns.
October/November 2014—USGS scientists return to Roi-Namur on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands to retrieve and redeploy time-series instruments that have been collecting data since 2013 to assess the impacts of sea-level rise and stom-wave inundation on this low-lying islet.
September 2014—USGS scientists attended the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) meeting in Maui HI, and organized and led a field trip to west Maui watersheds to educate USCRTF members about how land-based pollution issues manifest themselves and their impact on adjacent coral reefs and understand the science behind the West Maui USCRTF priority study area.
July 2014—Scientists from the USGS Coral Reef Project presented six papers and co-chaired two sessions at the 22nd Annual Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference in Honolulu HI.
June 2014—Nancy Prouty was invited to speak at the USGS Menlo Park Public Lecture Series where she delivered a talk entitled "Into the abyss: Deep-sea corals thriving without light."
March 2014—USGS scientists travel to American Samoa to collect bathymetry data, backscatter data, and high-definition video of the seafloor for the mapping and ground-truth surveying of benthic habitats in and around Faga'alu Bay.
November 2013—Emeritus geologist (and former Project Chief of the Coral Reef Project) Mike Field receives the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force 2013 Outstanding Scientific Advancement of Knowledge award for his "outstanding leadership in developing the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program's Coral Reef Project." To read move about his award, read the Sound Waves article here.
October/November 2013—USGS scientists travel to Roi-Namur, a small island on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands to deploy a suite of time-series instruments and collect data to assess the impacts of sea-level rise and stom-wave inundation on this low-lying Pacific islet.
July 2013—Scientists from the USGS Coral Reef Project traveled to Maui and Molokaʻi to conduct a GPS drifter experiment during summertime coral spawning times.
June 2013—Emeritus geologist (and former Project Chief of the Coral Reef Project) Mike Field receives the Department of Interior's highest merit award, the Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of his outstanding scientific contributions during this four-decade career with the USGS. Read the complete citation letter in a Sound Waves article here.
February 2013—Scientists from the USGS used a newly developed high-definition video camera system to collect footage of seafloor habitats off the islands of Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, and Maui. To read more about the Benthic OBservation Sled, or BOBSled, read the Sound Waves article here.
August 2012—In collaboration with the National Park Service, scientists from the USGS travelled to once again to Guam to retrieve instruments (deployed since October 2011) that collected data on oceanographic conditions and sediment resuspension and flux in the waters surrounding the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
July 2012—USGS scientists joined over 2000 other coral reef scientists from 80 different countries for the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium held in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Our group chaired sessions and presented papers that related to our coral reef efforts.
July 2011—Scientists travel to Moloka'i to conduct a tracer particle study in an effort to understand the direction, dispersion, and/or retention of terrestrial sediment entering the reef flat from the Kawela watershed.
Winter 2010/2011—USGS scientists work with the National Park Service to study sedimentation offshore from Puʻukohola Heiau National Historic site on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
Summer-Fall 2010—Scientists travel to Maunalua Bay on the island of Oʻahu once again to conduct fieldwork in cooperation with Malama Maunalua. Read about our efforts to understand why some reefs in the bay are doing well, while others are doing poorly.
May 2010—The USGS traveled to Molokaʻi to conduct an experiment during high trade winds and falling spring tides to track sediment flow off of the reef flat. In addition, Mike Field was invited to give the monthly evening public lecture at the USGS in Menlo Park.
April 2010—The USGS Ridge-to-Reef project participated in Molokaʻi's Earth Day Festival and Earth Science Day at the USGS in Menlo Park, CA, as part of global events for Earth Day. In addition, Amy Draut was an invited speaker at Tulane University where she discussed the results from our coring experiments in Hanalei Bay on the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi.
February 2010—Scientists from the USGS Coral Reef Project presented four papers and co-chaired two sessions at the 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland OR.
October 2009—Conveners of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Puerto Rico invited our group to speak about our publication entitled The Coral Reef of South Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi—Portrait of a Sediment-Threatened Fringing Reef, which was published in November 2008.
September 2009—While attending conferences in Sardenia, Italy, and Malta, the USGS was invited by the embassy to speak to a group of graduate students at the University of Malta on the topic of coral reefs and global climate change.
May 2009—USGS scientists travelled to Molokaʻi to re-occupy survey lines from 2005, and measure suspended sediment and turbidity on the reef flat. Once again, instruments were deployed and retrieved, sediment and water samples collected, oceanographic conditions measured, and multi-spectral images were collected via helicopter.
April 2009—Once again, the USGS participated in Molokaʻi's Earth Day Festival, presenting our work and educating folks on our Ridge-to-Reef efforts on the island.
March 2009—Scientists from our USGS coral reef group presented talks at both the 11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress in Tahiti, and at the 2009 George Wright Society Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites in Portland, OR.
February 2009—USGS scientists traveled back to Maunalua Bay on the island of Oʻahu to retrieve all of our oceanographic instruments that were deployed in November 2008. Data from this experiment will help managers understand the role of sediment transport in the bay.
December 2008—Several USGS scientists attended the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, CA. While there, Nancy Prouty was interviewed for an article in the February 2009 issue of ScienceNews magazine regarding her work using coral skeletons to determine historical rainfall records on Molokaʻi. The article can be viewed online at the ScienceNews website.
November 2008—The USGS Pacific Coral Reefs Project is proud to announce the publication of a large-scale, multi-chapter book entitled The Coral Reef of South Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi -- Portrait of a Sediment-Threatened Fringing Reef. Richly illustrated in color, the book was written, edited, and designed to appeal to a broad audience, from local residents and educators, to managers, policy-makers, and other scientists.
September 2008—USGS scientists travelled to Molokaʻi to continue their studies on the south shore coral reef. The focus of this trip was to discover the history of sedimentation in the blue holes, and to see how small benthic animals called foraminifera could help identify coral reefs in distress. Additional reconaissance divers were made on the north shore of the adjacent island of Lanaʻi.
August 2008—USGS scientists participated in the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting held in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
July 2008—USGS scientists joined over 2000 other coral reef scientists for the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Our group presented and co-authored a total of eight different papers at the conference that related to our work in Hawaiʻi.
June 2008—Members of our project participated in a joint USGS/National Park Service workshop on benthic habitat mapping in the National Parks.
May 2008—USGS scientists participated in a Local Action Strategy meeting for Maunalua Bay on the island of Oʻahu in anticipation of upcoming work.
April 2008—Once again, the USGS participated in Molokaʻi's Earth Day Festival, presenting our work and educating folks on our Ridge-to-Reef efforts on the island.
March 2008—Scientists from the USGS Pacific Coral Reefs project participated in the 2008 Ocean Sciences conference in Orlando FL, presenting talks and posters related to our work in Hawaiʻi.
January 2008—USGS scientists travelled to Guam to retrieve oceanographic instruments that were placed in June 2007 as part of a sediment study at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park.
November 2007—USGS scientists travelled to Molokaʻi to take core samples of coral. In a method similar to looking at rings on a cross-section of a tree trunk, the corals will be x-rayed in the lab to see if they show periods of sediment-related stress that can be correlated back to major rainfall events.
Summer/Fall 2007—In collaboration with the National Park Service, scientists from the USGS travelled to Guam to deploy instruments that collected data on oceanographic conditions and sediment resuspension and flux. Instruments were deployed at the beginning of the summer, and collected data continuously from mid-July through mid-October. In mid-October the instruments were pulled from the water, cleaned, the data downloaded, and the instruments were re-deployed for the next round of continuous data collection.
Spring 2007—USGS scientists travelled to Molokaʻi to re-occupy survey lines from 2005, and measure suspended sediment and turbidity on the reef flat. Once again, instruments were deployed and retrieved, sediment and water samples collected, oceanographic conditions measured, and multi-spectral images were collected via helicopter.
February 2007—The USGS, in cooperation with the Hanalei Watershed Hui, hosted a multi-agency conference in Princeville, HI to present collective research and collaborations of the multi-disciplinary investigations occurring in Hanalei Bay and the surrounding watersheds. Main issues at hand were to better understand the processes and impacts to the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, with regards to the generation of sediment and other pollutants and their transport through the system.
November 2006—Collaborators from the Australian National University collected core samples from Porites sp. coral heads on Molokaʻi in order to age-date the reef.
October 2006—The USGS Ridge-to-Reef team was awarded the USGS Innovation in Integrated Science Award for our multi-disciplinary work in the Hawaiian Islands.
Summer 2006—In cooperation with the Hanalei Watershed Hui, the team once again travelled to Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi to deploy instruments that collected data on oceanographic conditions and sediment resuspension and flux. Instruments were deployed at the beginning of the summer, and collected data continuously through June, July and August. We also collected long and short cores for grain-size and geochemical analysis of sediment.
April 2006—Scientific instruments deployed along the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi were retrieved in anticipation of re-deploying them in Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi throughout the summer months. Team members from the Ridge To Reef group participated in the Molokaʻi Earth Day Festivities.
February 2006—Scientists from the USGS Hawaiʻi coral reefs project participated in Oceans 2006 conference in Honolulu, presenting talks and posters related to our work in the islands. Next stop was the Big Island to retrieve, download, and re-deploy our scientific instruments along the Kona coast.
November 2005—We began our collaboration with the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) by deploying instruments to measure sediment runoff in support of their island-wide watershed erosion control project. We also began a study on the Big Island addressing groundwater flow of contaminants along the Kona coastline. During our fieldwork in Kona, we briefed visiting DOI Assistant Secretary Mark Limbaugh on our research at Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP, followed by a short snorkel to see the nearby coral reef. In addition, we began a collaboration with local Kona high schoolers to assist with monitoring submarine groundwater discharge.
Summer 2005—The team collected a variety of data in Hanalei Bay, Kauaʻi, in collaboration with the Hanalei Watershed Hui. Instruments were deployed at the beginning of the summer, and collected data continuously through June, July and August.
April 2005—USGS scientists were on Molokaʻi once again collecting data to assist the Molokaʻi Watershed Advisory Group. An intense survey was accomplished in order to establish a baseline measurement of suspended sediment and turbidity on the reef flat from Kapaʻakea to Kamalo. Instruments were deployed, sediment and water samples collected, oceanographic conditions measured, and multi-spectral images were collected via helicopter. We also participated in the annual Molokaʻi Earth Day Festival.
March 2005—USGS scientists were invited to present talks at the George Wright Society meeting in Philadelphia. Our talks focused on our Project's coral reef studies at National Parks in Hawaiʻi.
February 2005—Managers and scientists from the USGS met in Hawaiʻi to scout field locations on Kauaʻi and to discuss collaborative efforts with the EPA and NCRS regarding sedimentation and point-source pollution studies. In another study, USGS scientists travelled to the Maldive Islands to begin to assess damage to the coral reef from the December 26, 2004 Asian tsunami which heavily impacted the area.
January 2005—Scientists returned to Ofu to continue studying coral reefs which live under extreme conditions.
November 2004 - Scientists from the USGS Hawaiʻi coral reefs project participated in the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, CO where they presented preliminary findings from mapping efforts in the three National Parks on the Kona coast of Hawaiʻi.
October 2004—USGS scientists made a quick trip to Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP to retrieve oceanographic instruments that were placed in April 2004.
September 2004—The Hawaiʻi coral reef project was spreading aloha at the Open House for the new USGS Pacific Science Center in Santa Cruz, CA. The GPS drifter display was once again a hit, and even the Coral Reef Game made an encore performance.
August 2004—A very busy month indeed! We continued our underwater and coastal shoreline mapping efforts on the Kona (west) side of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, where we also recovered and refitted two oceanographic instrument packages placed in the waters of Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP. Data was collected on Molokaʻi using our multi-spectral imaging system mounted on a helicopter. We collected nearshore images to monitor sedimentation on the Molokaʻi reef, and on-land images on many of the main eight Hawaiian islands for a variety of vegetation monitoring projects. On the island of Ofu in American Samoa, scientists studied coral reefs which live under extreme conditions. The USGS also participated in the 2004 Western Pacific Geophysical Meeting (AGU) in Honolulu where scientists presented papers on mapping efforts in Hawaiʻi.
July 2004—The year-long sediment vs. coral health experiment on Maui comes to an end. In other news, a number of scientists from the USGS participated at the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium, held in Okinawa, Japan. There was a strong showing from both the East and West Coasts, and USGS talks and posters were well received by the international scientific community.
May 2004—Lead coral reef scientists from the USGS convened at the Pacific Science Center in Santa Cruz, CA to formulate plans for the long-term direction of coral reef studies at the USGS.
April 2004 - USGS once again takes part in Molokaʻi's Earth Day Festivities, and we were invited for the first time to participate in the Molokaʻi Native Hawaiian Education Council's Education Fair. Next, we were off to the Kona (west) side of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi to collect underwater video images, temperature and salinity data in the waters off Puʻukohola Heiau National Historical Site, Kaloko-Honoko¯hau National Historical Park, and Pu‘uhonua O Ho¯naunau National Historical Park (a.k.a. City of Refuge). Our colleagues from the University of Hawaiʻi joined us to conduct rapid assessments of reef biota. In addition, two oceanographic instrument packages were placed in the waters of Kaloko-Honoko¯hau NHP to monitor currents, waves and turbidity.
February 2004—A very busy month! In addition to fieldwork on three islands and leading a fieldtrip, we participated in several workshop discussions with other scientists, managers, and additional parties with interests in Hawaiian coral reefs. Foremost on everyone's mind are the effects of coastal erosion and other watershed activities on reefs. Also, USGS Scientists Mike Field and Curt Storlazzi are invited to give a presentation about the Life and Death of Hawaiian Coral Reefs at the Menlo Park office as part of the USGS Western Region Evening Public Lecture Series.
Also See These Other Articles:
March 2011 - Long-lived, slow-growing corals in deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico
December 2003 - USGS works off the Big Island of Hawaiʻi at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Park.
October 2003 - GPS drifters make a showing at Earth Science Day
September 2003 - USGS Fact Sheet "U.S. Coral Reefs -- Imperiled National Treasures" wins award
July 2003 - Imaging sediment in Hawaiian waters via helicopter
May 2003 - Coral reef project participates at the USGS Open House in Menlo Park, CA
November 2002 - USGS assists the National Park Service with the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor
February 2002 - Time-series rotary traps on Molokaʻi
November 2001 - USGS hosts workshop on Molokaʻi
October 2001 - Geophysical survey off Molokaʻi and Oʻahu
August 2001 - Benthic Imaging of the Molokaʻi reef
April 2001 - Molokaʻi Earth Day Festivities
February 2001 - USGS looks at coral reefs in Honduras
March 2000 (part 1) - Molokaʻi Dispatch article
March 2000 (part 2) - Molokaʻi Dispatch article
December 1999 - Molokaʻi fieldwork update
May 1999 - First look at Molokaʻi
February 1999 - Scouting fieldwork sites