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Pacific Island CASC researchers are exploring how seabird and human waste affect coral reef health in the Pacific Islands.

Wastewater treatment is a major challenge in the Pacific Islands that the State of Hawaiʻi is trying to manage for the health of local communities and the environment. However, local nutrient pollution from human waste is just one component to this waste. Remote islands also face another large natural waste source: seabirds. Both human and seabird waste make it into the waters around coral reefs that are already showing stress to warming temperatures in the region.

Pacific Islands CASC researchers Megan Donahue and Jessica Glazner are analyzing seabird guano (bird excrement) to better understand the different composition and impacts the ammonium and phosphate rich guano vs nitrogen rich wastewater have on coral reef health. The preference by seabirds, such as the red-footed booby, to live in areas with native forest restoration and the potentially beneficial impact of seabird guano on nearby reefs, this work may also inform rainforest restoration management decisions in the Pacific Islands. 

This work is supported by the Pacific Islands CASC project, “Unlocking Resilience Drivers to Inform Pacific Coral Reef Management”. 

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