UH Manoa researcher co-authors marine ecosystems study

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: May 11, 2009

Kim Selkoe, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology post-doctoral researcher, has co-authored a study on key threats and highly impacted ocean areas along the west coast of the United States.

Selkoe‘s work was published this week in an online issue of Conservation Letters, and was conducted at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She co-authored the two-year study with lead author Ben Halpern, associate research scientist at NCEAS, to document the way humans are affecting oceans in this ecological and economically important part of the world.

As part of the study, scientists overlaid data on the location and intensity of 25 different human-derived sources of ecological stress to the oceans. The sources included climate change, commercial and recreational fishing, various land-based sources of pollution, and ocean-based commercial activities, which produced a composite map of the state of marine ecosystems. The study reported that every single spot of the ocean along the west coast of the United States is being affected by 10-15 different human activities. Researchers compared the results to the results for the same region from the previous global analysis.

"Comparing the global version of the map to regional scale versions allows us to determine the kinds of places it performs best and can be relied on for regional management in other areas of the world," said Selkoe. "The high correlation is good news for marine managers in areas of the world that may be in need of maps of human impacts, but who do not have the resources to undertake their own tailored analysis."

A similar regional scale analysis was also just completed for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii and released by Coral Reefs. The global map performed far better overall for the California Current than for the remote Hawaiian archipelago, because the global analysis focused on pollution, coastal development, commercial fishing and other effects key to highly populated areas with heavy use. In contrast, Papahānaumokuākea is a unique area in the world that is protected from heavy direct human use. Nonetheless, it is threatened by indirect effects such as global climate change effects of sea level rise, seawater acidification and warming, alien species spread and damage from marine debris.

For more information or to download the maps, visit http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/GlobalMarine.