Manager Climate Corps
Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

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

Photo credit: Kamala Anthony, UH Hilo

Project 1 Summary: 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.

Project 1 Primary Contact

Project 2 Summary: 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.

Project 2 Primary Contact

Collaborators for Both Projects

Faculty Advisor

Committee Member

  • Noelani Puniwai, Assistant Professor, Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies

Masters Students

  • Kamala Anthony, Manager, Honokea Fishpond and graduate student
  • Cherie Kauahi, Graduate Student


  • Kēhau Springer, Conservation International Hawaiʻi
  • Luka Mossman, Manager, Hale o Lono Fishpond, Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation and Conservation International Hawaiʻi
  • Blake McNaughton, Manager, Waiāhole and Kapalaho Fishponds, Kamehameha Schools Kumuola Science Education Center
  • Troy Sakihara, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources
  • John Burns, Lecturer/Researcher, Marine Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo

Project Start Date: August 2016

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Partner Agencies

Pacific Islands Climate Science CenterUH ManoaUniversity of GuamDepartment of the Interior


Contact MCC Staff

  • Sharon Ziegler-Chong: Project Coordinator
  • Phone: (808) 933-0759
  • Email: ziegler@hawaii.edu

  • Scott Laursen: Technical Projects Specialist
  • Phone: (307) 699-0123
  • Email: slaursen@hawaii.edu

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 Science Center (PI-CSC).