CAMEO: Multiscale Modeling of Coral Reef Ecosystems

Collaborators: Paul Jokiel, Erik Franklin, Greg Piniak, Eric Brown, Ku’ulei Rodgers

Grad Asst: Megan Ross

A key challenge in the effective management of marine ecosystems is translating from small-scale studies of distribution and dynamics to the regional scale of management action.  In many marine ecosystems, including the Hawaiian Archipelago, there are extensive survey data of nearshore communities from multiple investigators, representing a huge investment of resources.  Often, these data are underutilized and remain of limited use to managers.  In the Hawaiian Archipelago, at least seven separate entities are engaged in surveys of coral reef communities, with varying degrees of coordination.  The synthesis of these data requires integrated modeling approaches at multiple scales.

Scientific Merit:This study builds on an existing database and extends two existing models: the Coral Recovery Model (Piniak et al 2005) of stochastic coral recovery after disturbance and the COMBO model (Buddemeier et al 2008) of the synergistic impacts of increasing acidification and temperature on coral reefs.  Extending from this prior work is the application of two innovative modeling approaches (scale transition theory and fundamental niche modeling) to predict coral community composition and dynamics at the regional scale.  Fundamental niche modeling uses multiple data fitting approaches (regression, machine learning, etc) to describe the relationship between species and their environments, using a split dataset for training and validation.  This approach can generate a predictive and validated spatially continuous model of species distribution from discrete data points.  The scale transition modeling will use the completed database of species distributions as the landscape on which species interactions occur.  These interactions are described by a local model, here, based on recruitment, growth, and mortality from the Coral Recovery Model .  In scale transition theory, the local model plus landscape information on the distribution and co-distribution of organisms and their environments predicts how a species assemblage responds (locally and regionally) to changes in biotic and abiotic factors on the landscape.

Broader Impacts: This proposal will generate four products relevant to ecosystem-based management of the Hawaiian Archipelago, resulting in significant impacts beyond the research community:

(i)     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

(ii)   Validated, predictive, and spatially continuous maps of coral species distribution throughout the HA

(iii) A validated Coral Recovery Model for coral reef mitigation in the Main Hawaiian Islands; this is an essential component to habitat equivalency analysis and any legal settlements for groundings, unpermitted run-off, etc.

(iv) Prediction of coral community response to climate change throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago, based on known and predicted coral distributions and the COMBO model