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Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center

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This photo of Kamehameha Beach illustrates the connections between land and sea, fundamental to life on islands for human societies as well as natural communities.  The black beach is made of volcanic sand, and coastal strand vegetation extends nearly from the waterline up over the escarpment, absent only where wave action and other forces have caused the land to slip.

Ridge To Reef: Connections between Land and Sea

In Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, nearshore, coastal, and inland ecosystems are tightly linked by natural processes such as ground and surface hydrology, and are affected by anthropogenic processes such as invasive species and point- and non-point pollution related to landscape clearing, hardening, and development. Land management is limited, and rarely guided by solid scientific information that recognizes the links between ecosystem components. In response to concerns about the health of coral reefs, anchialine pools, wetlands, and terrestrial communities, USGS science is linking impacts on terrestrial sites from invasive species and landuse change to declines in coastal and reef ecosystems using mapping, monitoring and models. This work requires an improved understanding of watershed processes, erosion mechanisms and the transport of sediment, and coral reef dynamics. Our goal is that this science will be applicable to atoll, low-island, and high-island systems and could be used to couple onshore to nearshore management in the western U.S. and developing Pacific islands. Degraded watersheds and coastal ecosystems and impaired coastal waters threaten both traditional and modern economies, and better tools are needed by stakeholders facing pressing management decisions.

Projects & Lead Scientists

Project Lead Scientist
Ridge-to-Reef Kauai Jim Jacobi
Ridge-to-Reef Molokai Jim Jacobi
Anchialine Pool Ecology David Foote
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Michelle Reynolds
Coastal Vegetation Survey Jim Jacobi

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