CTAHR NEWS

Runoff and Hawaiʻi Coral

Master’s thesis investigates the human impact on native soft octocoral

Runoff and Hawaiʻi Coral

How are humans impacting the amazing corals in the ocean with runoff and other stressors? Find out at Anita Tsang’s defense of her master’s thesis proposal, “Using an endemic Hawaiian soft coral, Sarcothelia edmondsoni, as a bioindicator of freshwater input and anthropogenic influence.”

Anita, in CTAHR’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, will defend her proposal on Friday, June 12, at 11:00 a.m. Join in via Zoom. 

Coral reefs are disappearing rapidly worldwide, and the identification and use of local bioindicators is critical in coral reef conservation and management. Bioindicators are organisms used as an index to describe environmental health to detect biological impairment in an ecosystem, and soft corals worldwide are indicators of poor water quality and contaminants.

Unusually high populations of an endemic Hawaiian soft octocoral, Sarcothelia edmondsoni, have recently been detected throughout the main Hawaiian Islands near polluted areas and stream mouths, where it may be impacted by freshwater discharge carrying nutrients and pollutants from land-based sources. However, little is known about this species, including whether it can be used as a reliable bioindicator of coastal water-quality issues caused by human activities.

Anita will investigate whether S. edmondsoni can serve as a local bioindicator of freshwater input and anthropogenic influence in Hawai‘i. Early detection of an impaired system through the use of a bioindicator will allow managers to take action and directly address the source of the problem to mitigate and control damage to coral reefs.

Anita’s committee consists of Kirsten Oleson, Ku‘ulei Rodgers, and Yin-Phan Tsang.

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