Coral Reef Conservation: GIS Maui.

Description of project

Coral reefs are one of the most productive, diverse and biologically productive ecosystems in the world. They extend 250,000 Sq Km of the ocean and they are home to about 25 percent of all known marine species. Coral reefs provide many valuable benefits to its ecosystem such as habitat, food, and also an extensive amount of benefits to coastal people. However, these ecosystems face many threats including anthropogenic causes such as overfishing, coastal development, agriculture runoff, increased tourism, and a global threat of climate change has begun to create more local threats than ever imagined. There has already been a wide spread of damage done to these ecosystems such as warming seas causing coral bleaching, and increasing carbon dioxide emissions are causing acidification, which leads to a reduction of coral growth rates. Tropical coral reefs are facing an array of threats from increased human activity and climate change.

For our project we will be looking at GIS data of the coral reefs around the coasts of Hawaii, and further research the amount of tourism, and also how the tourism in the particular area has increased, in relationship to the health of the Reefs. This type of research could potentially be useful to marine conservation practitioners, resource managers, policy makers, and developmental agencies. It could be used to create a management plan or to mitigate risks and protect their long term benefits. This Information could also be used to simply educate and teach people about the future of coral reef ecosystems. GIS can be used for marine conservation, or just conservation in general and this project will be an example of how it can be done.


Study Area:

The study area will be in Hawaii. The island in particular is Maui. This island is located 15km east of Molokai and 15km northwest of Lanai. This island encompasses 727 Sq mi, which makes it the second largest island of the eight main islands in hawaii. A huge reef surrounds a large portion of this island, however a complication i will come across is that most of the life coral is only found on the west coast, where the reef is protected from the waves due to the surrounding islands. Although the living coral is only found on the west side, we will be able to look at the bleached or killed reefs, in relation to other factors on this island. Another geographic problem is that the reef growth is limited on the north end due to high wave impacts. Our study area has been affected by a change in climate as well. Over the past couple decades there has been notable change in the GIS data in relationship to the seafloor. This area was once dominated by coral coverage, and now it is an abundance of turf algae and microalgae. Through combining mapping and GIS techniques, we are able to establish and better understand a more complete view of the reefs and evaluate current and past reef health, to predict or change the future change.



GIS Data will be gathered through Reefbase, ReefGIS and

Others will be found and used along the progress of this project.

  • Coral Reefs
  • Fringing reefs
  • Patch reefs
  • Shelf
  • Island
  • Shallow reef
  • Mixed reed
  • Deep reef
  • Coral bleaching
  • Threat levels; Low-critical
  • Marine protected areas
  • Tourism/ recreation


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