Factors Affecting Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument: Climate Change

Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program team preparing for rapid ecological assessmentsClimate change poses a threat to all coral reef ecosystems throughout the world, and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is no exception. The increase in average global temperatures, sea-level rise and change in chemical concentrations in the world’s oceans are typically cited as the results of global climate change. Regional predictions for the North Central Pacific Gyre area within the next 15 years are for surface temperature increases of 0.5 to 1.0 degrees Celsius, which is a smaller increase than that predicted for the Arctic and Northern hemisphere continental areas. Elevated sea surface temperatures such as those projected can lead to coral bleaching events, when corals expel their symbiotic algae and become white, or bleached. This phenomenon, which has already been observed in Papahānaumokuākea (Aeby et al. 2003; Kenyon and Brainard 2006), generally leads to partial or total mortality of the bleached coral and increases corals’ susceptibilities to various diseases. Ocean acidification, resulting from elevated CO2 levels that occur in conjunction with climate change, would have multiple impacts to coral reef ecosystems, including decreased abundance of aragonite (a major building block for coral reefs) and the dissolution of coral substrate and structures (Vitousek 1994). These effects lead to pronounced decreases in coral growth rates (Hoegh- Guldberg 2005; Henderson 2006). Ocean acidification does not only affect submerged reefs; it would similarly affect the carbonate based island atolls, further expediting the natural subsidence of these islands and atolls. Additionally, sea-level rise poses a significant threat to the terrestrial ecosystem. Recent modeling scenarios indicate that between 5% and 69% of some terrestrial habitats in Papahānaumokuākea could be lost due to rising sea levels by the year 2100 (Baker et al. 2006). Sea level rise is likely to have a significantly deleterious effect on Hawaiian Monk Seal pupping sites, Green Turtle nesting areas and Laysan Finch habitat, in addition to numerous other endangered and endemic species (Selkoe et al. 2008). It should be noted that these environmental pressures are global in nature, and arise predominantly outside the boundaries of the property. The property includes all the key areas and ecosystems to maintain its ecological integrity, and is of sufficient size to maintain associated biological and ecological processes to assure resilience in the face of effects from climate change. The possibility of cultural resilience, and managing for social-ecological resilience, in the face of global climate change has received increasing attention from academics, managers, and communities worldwide (e.g., MEA 2005) and has become a major topic in the science and management of coral reefs (Hughes et al. 2005). The coupled socialecological resilience of Papahānaumokuākea remains an area of great concern. Engaging with traditional ecological knowledge and local ecological knowledge is increasingly considered integral to enhancing and managing for resilience (Berkes et al. 2003; Davis & Wagner 2003; Folke 2006). Traditional Native Hawaiian knowledge and practice can provide a rich example of resilience in the face of extreme environmental and socio-cultural change. To address these current concerns, Monument staff are working to interweave multiple forms of knowledge into the management of Papahānaumokuākea, as exemplified by the MMP vision, goals and strategies described in preceding sections. For example, Monument staff and Native Hawaiian practitioners hosted a workshop for Hawai‘i-based coral reef managers entitled “Response to Climate Change (RtCC).” This five-day workshop, based on one designed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, was redesigned to incorporate traditional Native Hawaiian knowledge into modern reef management practices.