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Strategies to Detect Aquatic Invasive Species in Deepwater Habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

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The Biogeography Branch of NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment in collaboration with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument investigated strategies and technologies to detect aquatic invasive species in deepwater habitats (30 - 100 m) of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI).

Project objectives were to:

  1. Investigate survey technologies capable of detecting invasive species below 30 m
  2. Investigate predictive modeling techniques to improve the likelihood of early detection
  3. Develop an effective surveillance strategy and survey protocol for early detection of two invasive species of concern, Carijoa riisei (snowflake coral, an octocoral) and Hypnea musciformis (hookweed, a seaweed)
  4. Provide information products to resource managers to identify, prioritize and implement management actions regarding invasive species
Map of the  Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and  Marine National Monument Carijoa riisei Hypnea musciformis
Map of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Marine National Monument, courtesy of NOAA, State of Hawaii and ESRI. The invasive species Carijoa riisei, carpeting a ledge and eliminating space for other organisms. Photo courtesy of Sam Kahng. The invasive algae Hypnea musciformis covering benthic substrate. Photo courtesy of Jen Smith.

Project Summary

The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) has taken active steps to mitigate the threats of invasive species to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). PMNM has developed regulations and protocols to reduce the likelihood of transporting invasive species from source populations in the Main Hawaiian Islands, completed an Alien Species Action Plan to coordinate management, and invested into ecological research.

Much of the research involving invasive species in NWHI and the Main Hawaiian Islands has focused on shallow water habitats within the limits of conventional SCUBA (0-30 m). Deeper habitats are much more difficult to access and consequently there is little information about the distribution of invasive species below 30 m.

This project investigates strategies and technologies to improve detection of invasive species in deepwater habitats (30 – 100 m). Project objectives were identified by PMNM and are intended to satisfy needs outlined in the Monument Management Plan and the Natural Resources Science Plan. To ensure relevance, detection strategies were informed by local subject matter experts, and designed to use existing datasets and fit logistical constraints accorded by NWHI’s isolation.

Two field missions were completed to test technologies and strategies. Products from missions and investigations include a survey protocol for early detection, a habitat suitability map for C. riisei, a comparative assessment of different survey technologies, and GIS datasets identifying locations of invasive species of concern in deepwater habitats.

Documented Distribution
Documented distribution of Carijoa riisei and Hypnea musciformis
in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Main Hawaiian Islands.



Reports and Publications


Potential Distribution
Example of project output: map of potential habitat for Carijoa riisei around Niihau, Hawaii. Habitat based on simple habitat suitability model which uses habitat preferences and bathymetry models.


Relevant Links

Time Frame

Ongoing: Spring 2008 - Winter 2010

For More Information

1305 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 x107