Ecoinformatics To Evaluate the Environmental Health and Management of Coral Reef Ecosystems

EPA Grant Number: FP917096
Title: Ecoinformatics To Evaluate the Environmental Health and Management of Coral Reef Ecosystems
Investigators: Franklin, Erik Charles
Institution: University of Hawaii at Manoa
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: August 23, 2010 through August 22, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Emerging Environmental Approaches: Informatics


The objective of this research is to use an ecoinformatics approach to integrate empirical observations of coral species with environmental and anthropogenic covariates to model spatially-explicit coral distributions for biocriteria evaluation, climate change studies, and marine spatial planning.

A key challenge in the effective management of coral reef ecosystems is determining appropriate biocriteria for the evaluation of ecosystem condition and then translating those criteria from small-scale studies of distribution and dynamics to the regional scale of management action. This research applies an ecoinformatics approach that incorporates theory, models, and data to evaluate the environmental condition and management of coral reefs in the Hawaiian Archipelago.


This research will synthesize Hawaiian archipelago-wide data of coral reef surveys and develop continuous spatial models based on ecological niche modeling approaches for the dominant coral species. These data will be used to evaluate and enhance existing coral reef biocriteria approaches. Further, the species distribution data will be coupled with a climate forecast model to evaluate potential responses to climate change. Finally, the continuous maps of coral species distribution as well as environmental and anthropogenic covariate layers will be used with spatial-optimization routines to evaluate patterns of resilient marine landscapes in Hawaii.

Expected Results:

It is anticipated that this research will generate four significant products: (1) A Hawaiian Archipelago-wide GIS database of coral distribution, benthic community data, fish surveys, and other data gathered by CRAMP, NPS (National Park Service), various divisions in NOAA, the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, and other sources into a single GIS database; (2) Validated, predictive, and spatially continuous maps of coral species distribution throughout the HA; (3) A validated Ecological Gradient Model for coral reef biocriteria in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to extend the model development in the Main Hawaiian Islands; and (4) Prediction of coral community (biocriteria) response to climate change throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago, based on known and predicted coral distributions and the COMBO model. This work will be submitted for publication in scholarly journals as appropriate. For dissemination to managers and the public, we will take advantage of the relationships that HIMB has developed throughout Hawai’i: a research partnership with the state and federal managers of the NWHI, collaborations with the Hawai’i Division of Aquatic Resources, ongoing public presentations at the Bishop Museum and Hanauma Bay Visitor Center, citizen science collaborations with ReefCheck “Eyes of the Reef”, and ongoing visitor tours and outreach onsite at Coconut Island. In addition to these products and outreach efforts, University of Hawai’i is a Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander serving institution and Dr. Jokiel has an excellent track record in mentoring local students.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection
Human populations in coastal tropical areas rely intimately on the diverse goods and services provided by coral reef ecosystems. This research explores the development of a holistic approach of theory, data, and models to evaluate the condition and dynamics of these systems to support their sustainable management in a changing world.

Supplemental Keywords:

coral, reef, ecosystem, ecoinformatics, Hawaii, biocriteria, modeling, niche,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011
  • 2012
  • Final