Hawaiʻi coral maps

How do Marine Heatwaves Impact Hawai‘i’s Coral Reefs?


In efforts to understand how marine heatwaves impact Hawai‘i’s coral reefs, the Global Airborne Observatory (GAO) from Arizona State University took to the sky to map coral cover before and after the 2019 marine heatwave. The first of its kind, these maps show how corals reefs are changing to adapt to the rising ocean temperatures. The team of scientists found that there are “winner” and “loser” corals, meaning some corals are persisting despite the heating temperatures. Using the maps, the study also discovered potential coral refugia – habitats that may offer a safe haven for corals facing climate change.

Explore the changes in live coral cover below!

Human Impact on Coral Survival

The coral cover maps also show that reefs near heavily developed coasts are more susceptible to mortality during heat waves. When development occurs on land, the amount of pollution entering the reef ecosystem increases, creating an unfavorable environment for coral reefs already fighting to survive the warming water.

To learn more about becoming coral reef stewards and protecting this critical marine ecosystem, join the Ko‘a Corps.

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