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EPA awards $102,099 to University of Hawaii at Hilo

Release Date: 9/15/2003
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

Coral reef research will be the focus of grant funds

HONOLULU--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $102,099 to the University of Hawaii at Hilo's Marine Science Department to assess pollution impacts to two coral reefs on the Big Island.

The project will develop and test methods to assess impacts on coral reef health from pollution sources in the coastal waters of Hawai'i. These sources of pollution on the Kona coast can include cesspools, septic systems, and a wastewater treatment plant, which can add nutrients like nitrogen into the coastal waters. Sediment from graded areas on construction sites can also impact reefs.

"The information gathered from the University of Hawai'i's project will provide a better understanding of how coral reefs are affected by coastal developments and land-based pollution," said Alexis Strauss, director for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region's Water Division. "It is important to EPA that coral reefs are protected, as the reefs provide habitat for many marine species."

The project will also use the funds for:

-mapping areas of nitrogen pollution in two reef environments,
-establishing new baseline data to compare with previous studies and future post-development studies,
-comparing how marine life is impacted by excess nutrients from the land,
-developing a model to simulate nitrogen pollution on reefs from groundwater sources.

Coral reefs are valuable ecosystems providing habitat for a wide variety of marine life and are an important part of Hawai'i's marine environment. Coral reefs are vulnerable to environmental changes and the impacts of human activities. The EPA is working with local and state governments, communities, and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, in the effort to protect coral reefs.
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