West Hawai‘i - Publications

Prey-size plastics are invading larval fish nurseries

Authors: Jamison M. Gove, Jonathan L. Whitney, Margaret A. McManus, Joey Lecky, Felipe C. Carvalho, Jennifer M. Lynch, Jiwei Li, Philipp Neubauer, Katharine A. Smith, Jana E. Phipps, Donald R. Kobayashi, Karla B. Balagso, Emily A. Contreras, Mark E. Manuel, Mark A. Merrifield, Jeffrey J. Polovina, Gregory P. Asner, Jeffrey A. Maynard, and Gareth J. Williams


Life for many of the world’s marine fish begins at the ocean surface. Ocean conditions dictate food availability and govern survivorship, yet little is known about the habitat preferences of larval fish during this highly vulnerable life-history stage. Here we show that surface slicks, a ubiquitous coastal ocean convergence feature, are important nurseries for larval fish from many ocean habitats at ecosystem scales. Slicks had higher densities of marine phytoplankton (1.7-fold), zooplankton (larval fish prey; 3.7-fold), and larval fish (8.1-fold) than nearby ambient waters across our study region in Hawai‘i. Slicks contained larger, more well-developed individuals with competent swimming abilities compared to ambient waters, suggesting a physiological benefit to increased prey resources. Slicks also disproportionately accumulated prey-size plastics, resulting in a 60-fold higher ratio of plastics to larval fish prey than nearby waters. Dissections of hundreds of larval fish found that 8.6% of individuals in slicks had ingested plastics, a 2.3-fold higher occurrence than larval fish from ambient waters. Plastics were found in 7 of 8 families dissected, including swordfish (Xiphiidae), a commercially targeted species, and flying fish (Exocoetidae), a principal prey item for tuna and seabirds. Scaling up across an ∼1,000 km2 coastal ecosystem in Hawai‘i revealed slicks occupied only 8.3% of ocean surface habitat but contained 42.3% of all neustonic larval fish and 91.8% of all floating plastics. The ingestion of plastics by larval fish could reduce survivorship, compounding threats to fisheries productivity posed by overfishing, climate change, and habitat loss.

Anchialine Pools: Vulnerability to Climate Change in West Hawai‘i

Authors: Lisa Marrack, Jeffrey Maynard, Dieter Tracey, Jamison Gove, John Marra, Eric Conklin, Ayesha Genz, Rebecca Most, Barbara Seidel, Hannah Springer, Chad Wiggins, Danny Akaka, and members of the Hui Loko network.


Anchialine pools, known locally as wai ‘ōpae or loko ‘ōpae ‘ula, are landlocked bodies of water with a subterranean connection to the ocean (from Greek ankhialos, ‘near the sea’). Anchialine pools are unique coastal ecosystems that support West Hawai‘i biodiversity, fisheries, cultural activities, and tourism. Healthy anchialine pools filter run-off and provide habitat for the native shrimp ‘ōpae ‘ula along with numerous other endemic species. Hawai‘i Island has one of the highest concentrations of anchialine pools in the world. However, anchialine pool ecosystems are gravely threatened by introduced fishes and non-native vegetation, changes in land-use that contribute to habitat loss, and reductions or impairments of freshwater water. In the coming decades, these threats to pools are compounded by the threat of climate change, including the inundation from sea-level rise and flood events. Today, many pools are actively being restored through vegetation, fish and sediment removal. These community lead efforts will be essential in the coming decades to conserve these unique ecosystems

Coral Reefs: Vulnerability to Climate Change in West Hawai‘i

Authors: Jeffrey Maynard, Jamison Gove, Dieter Tracey, Johanna Johnson, Joey Lecky, Eric Conklin, Ruben van Hooidonk, Mary Donovan, Justin Hospital, Danika Kleiber, Rusty Brainard, Ivor Williams, Dione Swanson, Tom Oliver, William Walsh, Chad Wiggins, and Lindsey Kramer.


The west coast of the island of Hawai‘i (West Hawai‘i) is a unique habitat known for its clear waters and vibrant coral reefs. West Hawai‘i contains one of the state’s longest contiguous coral reefs, supporting an abundance of corals and fish, of which nearly a quarter are only found in Hawai‘i. Coral reefs are of critical importance to the communities and environment of West Hawai‘i. Reefs in this area are home to culturally significant species, used for recreational and commercial fishing, and provide economic benefits. The vulnerability of a coral reef to changes in climate depends on the frequency and severity of climate disturbances, such as coral bleaching. Vulnerability also depends on the sensitivity of coral reefs to these disturbances. Sensitivity is a combination of coral reef resilience — their capacity to resist and recover from disturbance — and whether resilience is compromised by human impacts. We generated information on climate change, resilience, and human impacts, and then combined these inputs to assess coral reef ecosystem vulnerability across West Hawai‘i.

Revealing complex social-ecological interactions through participatory modeling to support ecosystem-based management in Hawai‘i

Authors: Rebecca J. Ingram, Kirsten L.L. Oleson, Jamison M. Gove

Marine Policy Journal: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2018.05.002


Marine environments are intricately connected with society, providing a backbone to the economy and well-being of human communities. In West Hawai‘i, people dedicated to the region worked together to build a comprehensive understanding of these connections through a series of workshops and surveys. Participants of this study identified the strongest pressures affecting the marine ecosystem, as well as impacts to numerous ecosystem services. Participants perceived that fishing, ocean temperatures, nutrient input, and habitat destruction are the ecosystem pressures that have the strongest impact on the local marine ecosystem. More than half of the 24 identified pressures can be managed locally, rather than globally, presenting an opportunity for local management action. Participants also identified which ecosystem services would be most vulnerable to changes in the ecosystem. The majority of services perceived as highly vulnerable to ecosystem change are intangible, non-material, and can be difficult to count or quantify (frequently referred to as “cultural” ecosystem services). Resource management strategies tend to omit these cultural services, perhaps in part because they can be difficult to count or measure and therefore incorporate. These intangible benefits, however, are critical to human well-being. This study presents a way to apply ecosystem-based management that is both locally-specific and transferable to other locations. Local resource management could use this research as a basis for assessing ecosystem pressures and services that stakeholders specifically identified as influential and important to society.



Evaluating Management Strategies To Optimise Coral Reef Ecosystem Services

Authors: Mariska Weijerman, Jamison M. Gove, Ivor D. Williams, William J. Walsh, Dwayne Minton, Jeffrey J. Polovina

2018 Journal of Applied Ecology


Historical declines in marine resources combined with the recent devastating coral bleaching event in 2015 and current fishing pressure have resulted in a degraded coral reef ecosystem state at Puakō, West Hawai‘i. Here, we developed a customized ecosystem model to evaluate the performance of current and alternative resource management scenarios in the provisioning of ecosystem services to human users (marine tourists, non-commercial fishers) and enhancing the reef's ability to recover from pressures (resilience). We found current management to be the poorest performer, indicating that changes to resource management are needed to facilitate recovery of ecosystem function and services enjoyed by the local community. We also found that no alternative management solution simultaneously promoted recovery of ecosystem stability while also maximizing the delivery of ecosystem services. However, by elucidating tradeoffs and evaluating a range of potential management options, this study serves as an important decision-support tool and provides a "big picture" context as we move toward ecosystem-based management in the region.

Relative Resilience Potential and Bleaching Severity In The West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area in 2015

Authors: Jeffrey Maynard, Eric Conklin, Dwayne Minton, Rebecca Most, Courtney Couch, Gareth J. Williams, Jamison M. Gove, Brett Schumacher, William Walsh, Jonathan Martinez, Douglas Harper, Danielle Jayewardene, Britt Parker, Lani Watson

2017 NOAA Technical Memorandum


Coral reefs are of critical importance to the communities and environment of West Hawai‘i, and supporting the resilience of reefs is a goal within many management plans in the region. Coral reef resilience is the capacity of a reef to resist or recover from degradation and maintain the provision of ecosystem goods and services. Here, we highlight a comprehensive assessment of coral reef resilience based on in-water surveys performed in October 2015, during the peak of the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in West Hawai‘i. Coral bleaching observations, indicators of coral reef resilience (e.g., coral disease, coral recruitment and herbivorous fish biomass) and variation in resilience potential across the North Kona and South Kohala regions are presented. Information from this report can support resource management target and tailor appropriate actions to preserve or restore ecosystem resilience.

Advancing the integration of spatial data to map human and natural drivers on coral reefs

Authors: Lisa M. Wedding, Joey Lecky, Jamison M. Gove, Hilary R. Walecka, Mary K. Donovan, Gareth J. Williams, Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Larry B. Crowder, Ashley Erickson, Kim Falinski, Alan M. Friedlander, Carrie V. Kappel, John N. Kittinger, Kaylyn McCoy, Albert Norstrom, Magnus Nystrom, Kirsten L.L. Oleson, Kostantinos A. Stamoulis, Crow White, Kimberly A. Selkoe

2018 PLoS ONE


A major challenge for coral reef conservation and management is understanding how a wide range of interacting human and natural drivers cumulatively impact and shape these ecosystems. Despite the importance of understanding these interactions, a methodological framework to synthesize spatially explicit data of such drivers is lacking. To fill this gap, we established a transferable data synthesis methodology to integrate spatial data on environmental and anthropogenic drivers of coral reefs and applied this methodology to a case study location – the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). The spatial integration of environmental and anthropogenic driver data described here provides a first-ever synthetic approach to visualize how the drivers of coral reef state vary in space and demonstrate a methodological framework for implementation of this approach in other regions of the world. By quantifying and synthesizing spatial drivers of change on coral reefs, we provide an avenue for further research to understand how drivers determine reef diversity and resilience, which can ultimately inform policies to protect coral reefs.

Local-scale projections of coral reef futures and implications of the Paris Agreement

Authors: Ruben van Hooidonk, Jeffrey Maynard, Jerker Tamelander, Jamison Gove, Gabby Ahmadia, Laurie Raymundo, Gareth Williams, Scott F. Heron and Serge Planes

2016 Nature Scientific Reports


Increasingly frequent severe coral bleaching is among the greatest threats to coral reefs posed by climate change. Global climate models project great spatial variation in the timing of annual severe bleaching conditions; a point at which reefs are certain to change and recovery will be limited. However, previous model-resolution projections are too spatially coarse to inform conservation and management planning. Here, we generated downscaled projections (4-km resolution) of future coral bleaching for all coral reefs across the world and highlights a high level of local-scale variation in the projected onset of annual severe coral bleaching. Coral reef futures clearly vary greatly among and within countries, indicating the projections warrant consideration in most reef areas during conservation and management planning.

How life history characteristics and environmental forcing shape settlement success of coral reef fishes

Authors: Jennifer A. T. K. Wong-Al, Christina M. Comfort, Jamison M. Gove, Mark A. Hixon, Margaret A. McManus, Brian S. Powell, Jonathan L. Whitnew, Anna B. Neuheimer

2018 Frontiers in Marine Science


Larval settlement is shaped by the interaction of biological processes (e.g., life history strategies, behavior etc.) and the environment (e.g., temperature, currents etc.). This is particularly true for many reef fishes where larval stages disperse offshore, often spending weeks to months in the pelagic realm before settling to shallow-water reefs. However, there is much uncertainty in the prediction of reef fish settlement and subsequent recruitment and population dynamics. Here we develop and employ a high-resolution biophysical model to examine how biology interacts with the physical environment to shape settlement predictions for reef fish off West Hawai‘i. We identify specific life history characteristics that predict the self-recruitment pathways necessary for population persistence for the relatively isolated Hawai‘i Island. These results can be used to develop future hypotheses regarding temporal and spatial variation in recruitment for reef fishes in Hawai‘i and beyond.