Coral reefs, a vital part of the marine ecosystem, are increasingly threatened by ocean pollution, and researchers at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo (UHH) have been enlisted to look into the problem. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that the UHH marine science department will receive $102,099 for the study, which will cover two coral reefs off the Kona coast. “The information gathered from the project will provide a better understanding of how coral reefs are affected by coastal developments and land-based pollution,” said EPA regional director Alexis Strauss. “It is important to the EPA that coral reefs are protected, as the reefs provide habitat for many marine species.”
The project will develop and test methods to assess impacts on coral reef health from pollution sources in the coastal waters of
Hawai`i, which can include cesspools, septic systems, and a wastewater treatment plant. These sources can add nutrients like nitrogen into the coastal waters, while construction sites can contribute sediment.
According to the EPA, the project will also include mapping nitrogen pollution, setting baseline data to compare with studies that will follow major land development, studying the impact of excess land nutrients on marine life, and developing a model to simulate reef nitrogen pollution originating from groundwater sources.