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Historical Land Use Patterns Recorded by Coral Chemistry: Linkages Between Watershed Change and Ecosystem Health: Nancy Grumet Prouty

Project Title: Historical Land Use Patterns Recorded by Coral Chemistry: Linkages Between Watershed Change and Ecosystem Health
Mendenhall Fellow: Nancy Grumet Prouty, (831) 427-4726,
Duty Station: Santa Cruz, CA
Start Date: October 1, 2007
Education: Stanford University, 2004—Oceanography (major); Paleoceanography, Geochemistry (minors)
Research Advisor: Mike Field, (831) 427-4737,
Project Description: The observed decline in water quality within coastal environments is directly related to upstream changes in catchments basin land use (for example, deforestation, agriculture), enhanced terrestrial runoff, coastal urbanization and mining operations. The effects of increased runoff of terrestrial sediments, nutrients and pollutants on coral reefs include burial and smothering, reduced recruitment, and decreased calcification.  In addition, wider effects are observed on the coral reef ecosystem that include increased susceptibility to disease increased bioerosion, loss of biodiversity, and eutrophication by proliferation of algae.  The coral reef ecosystem of the Hawaiian Islands is not immune to these threats where land-based pollution is a major threat to reefs in Hawaii and other U.S. islands.  However, it has been difficult to decisively demonstrate a clear link between land use patterns and large-scale reduction in coral reef cover based on surveys alone. High-resolution geochemical proxy records from coral reefs can accurately record changes in environmental parameters. In collecting an array of coral cores from the USGS Ridge-to-Reef study areas on Molokai and Kauai, this research will investigate the link between sedimentation and coral reef ecosystem health due to chronic exposure to sedimentation as well as to study the effects of infrequent, large scale events and perturbations due to modification of the coastline. Results from these objectives will be put into a historical context by comparing present day conditions to those of the past several decades.

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Last modified: 16:08:32 Thu 13 Dec 2012