Impact of climate change on hydrology and primary production of three Hawaiian fishponds

managers working on the mākāhā or the channel entrance to a traditional fishpond
Photo: Investment from many community members (laulima) is vital to the adaptive management that has sustained loko iʻa over centuries. Photo credit: Kamala Anthony, UH Hilo


Project's Final Report

Project Highlighted in Voice of the Sea (local television program)

Inquiry 1 Project Overview (Kauahi)

Inquiry 2 Project Overview (Anthony)

Inquiry 1: Groundwater springs are fundamental in providing nutrients to coastal environments, yet is a difficult process to understand due to its complex interactions with hydrogeologic, oceanographic and climatologic processes. In Hawaiʻi groundwater plays a significant role in loko iʻa function and sustainability, therefore understanding the interactions between groundwater and seawater in loko iʻa environments is important. The focus of my research is to understand how groundwater flow changes at different scales of time within three loko iʻa in Keaukaha, HI. My research will also focus on understanding the socioecosystems of place, which will provide information through various individuals perspectives who have an experience based relationship to these places. Information obtained from this research will provide fishponds managers an understanding of changes in groundwater flow through time within the three studied loko iʻa. Overall this information will be used to enhance loko iʻa practices and sustainability.

Primary Contact

Inquiry 2: On the east side of Moku o Keawe (Hawaii Island), along the Keaukaha coastline, there is a valuable and critical resource known for its brackish water habitat. The ecosystem occurs in the near shore zones where upwelling groundwater and marine seawater meet at the shoreline. Brackish water habitats serve as a sustainable food source for coastal communities. Additionally, the health of these systems is closely tied to the survival of many Kanaka Maoli ancestral practices. Climate change has the potential to significantly alter these estuarine systems through changes in rainfall and coastal inundation by sea level rise that change the input of nutrients and alters habitats and primary production by shifting salinity gradient. To maximize the productivity of fishponds today and plan for the future, fishpond managers need methodologies to quantify variability and information on how climate change may alter their ponds. This study will assess climate change impacts on three traditional Hawaiian Fishponds in Keaukaha through defining the impacts of variability of fresh groundwater and ocean water inputs on the physical, chemical and biological properties of the systems.

Primary Contact

Collaborators for Project Inquiry 1

Masters Student

  • Cherie Kauahi, Graduate Student

Faculty Advisor

Committee Members

  • Noelani Puniwai, Assistant Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies
  • Jene Michaud, Professor of Geology, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
  • Kēhau Springer, Conservation International Hawaiʻi

Collaborators for Project Inquiry 2

Masters Student

  • Kamala Anthony, Fishpond Manager (Honokea Loko) and graduate student

Faculty Advisor

Committee Members

  • Blake McNaughton, Fishpond Manager (Waiāhole and Kapalaho loko iʻa), Kumuola Science Education Center, Kamehameha Schools
  • Troy Sakihara, Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • Becky Ostertag , Professor, Biology; Program Chair, M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Additional Collaborators Involved in Both Project Inquiries (1 and 2)

  • Luka Mossman, Manager, Hale o Lono Fishpond, Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation and Conservation International Hawaiʻi
  • John Burns, Lecturer/Researcher, Marine Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
  • Jason Adolf, Associate Professor (Marine Science), Dept. of Biology, Monmouth University

Project 1&2 Start Date: August 2016
Project 1&2 Completion Date: August 2018

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo interns and researchers join loko iʻa (fishpond) managers for a group photo of the many collaborators working together at three lokoiʻa of Keaukaha, Hawaiʻi, including Honokea Loko, Hale o Lono, and Kionakapahu.
Photo: University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo interns and researchers join loko iʻa (fishpond) managers for a group photo of the diverse collaborators at three lokoiʻa of Keaukaha, Hawaiʻi including Honokea Loko, Hale o Lono, and Kionakapahu. Photo credit: Kamala Anthony, UH Hilo

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The MCC partners with the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Graduate Program at UH Hilo and is a part of the larger tri-university consortium of the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC).