Supporting Coral Reef Conservation at Palmyra Atoll


Supporting Coral Reef Conservation at Palmyra Atoll

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), with the help of Dr. Jennifer E. Smith from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, successfully deployed one of PacIOOS’ nearshore water quality sensors at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to support ongoing reef recovery efforts. The sensor is part of PacIOOS’ Water Quality Sensor Partnership Program, which provides participating partners with instrumentation, data management, and technical expertise to collect robust monitoring data.

USFWS removed a large shipwreck from Palmyra Atoll in 2013. The shipwreck had devastating impacts on the reef as the wreck’s iron fostered the growth of corallimorph, an invasive organism that smothered a large amount of the once healthy reef. Over time, coral diversity diminished and the reef turned into a “black reef”, dominated by this single, invasive species.

Smothered reef at Palmyra Atoll

Portions of the reef were smothered by an invasive organism, which gained nutrients from the wreck’s iron. Photo Credit: USFWS/Susan White.

The successful removal of the shipwreck was followed by the removal of invasive species and the restoration of vital coral reef habitat. USFWS has been surveying coral growth, health, and recolonization and noticed drastic fluctuations in turbidity due to sediment resuspension. The site also experiences occasional temperature elevations, triggering seasonal coral bleaching.

Data collected by the PacIOOS nearshore sensor will increase the understanding of oceanographic conditions and associated impacts for ongoing and future coral reef restoration efforts. The Sea-Bird Electronics 16plus V2 SeaCAT Recorder with integrated WET Labs ECO-FLNTUS measures temperature, conductivity, pressure, chlorophyll and turbidity in 7-minute intervals. All of the collected data will be managed by USFWS and made available through PacIOOS.

Nearshore Sensor at Palmyra Atoll

PacIOOS nearshore water quality sensor at Palmyra Atoll. Photo credit: UCSD/Jen Smith.

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, is managed by USFWS in close partnership with The Nature Conservancy, which owns a private nature preserve within the atoll.

Coral Gardens Palmyra Atoll

Healthy coral gardens at Palmyra Atoll. Photo credit: USFWS/Kydd Pollock.

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Did you know?

PacIOOS is the first regional association that was certified as a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE) by the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Certification provides NOAA and its interagency partners a means to verify that a regional association’s organizational and operational practices, including data management, meet recognized and established standards set by NOAA.