Summer Expedition to Explore Species, Environmental Impacts in Northwestern Hawaiian Archipelago
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and its Papahānaumokuākea Research and Conservation Fund is awarding a $900,000 grant to support research and conservation of Hawaii’s unique resources in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. A research expedition is planned for the summer of 2018.
Papahānaumokuākea is a remote archipelago of islands, reefs and atolls in the northwestern sector of the Hawaiian Island chain. Many of the thousands of species of fish and wildlife that inhabit this area are found nowhere else on Earth, including threatened and endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtle and Laysan albatross.
Much of the northwestern Hawaiian archipelago remains unexplored, particularly in depths of 100 ft. or more. This collaborative research effort will focus on French Frigate Shoals (Kānemiloha‘i), an ecologically important atoll where more than 90% of Hawaiian green sea turtles nest and a large portion of the northwest Hawaiian Island monk seal population reproduces.
Research activities will explore how changing environmental conditions will impact low-lying sand and coral reef habitats and associated species (turtles, seals, birds, fishes, coral, algae), explore and catalog the deeper mesophotic zone diversity, and understand trophic connections between shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems at French Frigate Shoals. The research will help address management questions about the importance and interconnectivity of different habitats across the Hawaiian archipelago, help understand complex food webs and allow for proactive management of environmental stressors like coral bleaching and sea level rise.
“Papahānaumokuākea is one of the greatest natural laboratories on Earth,” said Randy Kosaki, NOAA’s deputy superintendent and research coordinator for Papahānaumokuākea.