Lost Ecosystem

Hawaiian Coral Reef Under Siege




In the tropical paradise of Hawaiian waters, a milky growth has been spreading rapidly across the coral reefs along Kauai’s north shore. Marine biologist Terry Lilley, the foremost expert on the outbreak, says it now affects up to 40 percent of the coral in Anini Bay, and conditions in nearby areas are as bad or worse.

The growth, identified by U.S. Geological Survey scientists as both a bacteria that grows through photosynthesis and a fungus, is killing all the coral it strikes and is spreading its infection at the rate of one to three inches a week. “This bacteria has been killing some of these 50-to-100-year-old corals in less than eight weeks,” Lilley told the Los Angeles Times, noting that the entire reef system appears to be losing its immune system.

Some feel the cause is high levels of fecal and related bacteria from the town of Hanalei, which has no sewer system and where homes are connected to cesspools and septic systems. Because no definitive link has been shown, government action has been limited.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Migrating Trees

Three-quarters of American tree species have shifted to the West since 1980 due to dryer conditions in the East and changing rainfall patterns.

Plutonium Problem

To safely dispose of 56 million gallons of nuclear waste dating back to the Second World War, the Department of Energy might replace a glass-log encasement plan with a cement option.

Bat Banter

Computer algorithms helped Israeli researchers decode the language of Egyptian fruit bats and discover that bats exchange information about specific problems.

Tuna Turnaround

Levels of toxic mercury in Atlantic Bluefin tuna declined 19 percent between 2004 and 2012, a drop that scientists attribute to a shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy.

Buzzing RoboBees

Harvard researchers have invented tiny robotic bees that may be able to eventually pollinate the crops that are under threat because of vanishing bee colonies.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags