NERRS: Ecosystem Cycling Research

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 29 protected areas established by partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and coastal states. NERRS protects more than 1.3 million acres of coastal and estuarine habitats for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship. 

The above special feature provides details on the overall NERRS.

Ecosystem Cycling Research at He'eia

At the He'eia National Estuarine Research Reserve, there are a number of research operations that are monitoring the cycling of materials within the ecosystem. The University of Hawaii’s Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) is the managing state partner for the He‘eia NERR program. Researchers (listed below) and their projects are outlined in the He'eia National Estuarine Research Reserve Management Plan begining on page 70.

Image caption

Fig. 1. The McManus lab group.
Front row left to right (Tucker Hull, Olivia Hughes, Shilpa Lal). Back row left to right (Kimball Millikan, Paula Moehlenkamp, Christina Comfort, Margaret McManus, Katharine Smith, Gordon Walker). Not pictured: Jon Whitney, Shaun Wriston.

Image copyright and source

Image courtesy of margaretmcmanus.com

  • Kathleen Ruttenberg & Margaret McManus (Fig. 1) (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa): often working in collaboration, these researchers are interested in the way in which the magnitude and nature of fluxes of both sediment and nutrients (nutrients, carbon, DO, pH, etc.) throughout the watershed will change under differing land-use practices and resource management strategies. Prof. Ruttenberg also has a time series of biogeochemical parameters going back to 2007 that provides an invaluable baseline against which future changes can be measured. Their future interests include:
    • time series of water and sediment flux, the associated dissolved and particulate chemistry, and the processes that control nutrient cycling in this system 
    • characterizing the nature of sediment and quantifying nutrient fluxes between the seabed and water column 
    • characterizing the nature of organic matter delivered across the ahupua‘a 
    • characterizing the impact of invasive alien macroalgae and mangrove removal on the benthic environment and nutrient biogeochemistry of the area
  • Flo Thomas & Sherril Leon-Soon (Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology): interested in the interaction of physics and biology, Dr. Thomas and her student Sherril have been collaborating with others on this list to look at the fluxes and fate of nutrients throughout the watershed, which species are using them, and trying to understand how traditional management practices such as taro patches (loʻi kalo) and fishponds (loko iʻa) modify the flux of nutrients and sediment contained in the water that travels through the wetlands and out onto the reef flats. Further, Hokulani Aikau and others have collaborated with these researchers to provide information gathered by conducting interviews with keepers of knowledge (kupuna) to map historical land and resource uses.
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    Image caption

    Fig. 2. Dr. Craig Nelson samples under the ice to conduct research on microbial communities.

    Image copyright and source

    Image courtesy of Craig Nelsons' Research Page

    Craig Nelson (Fig. 2) (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa) is interested primarily in microbial activity and microbial community dynamics and how these impact environmental geochemistry and cycling of dissolved organic matter. His current research, supported by a competitive grant awarded through Hawaii Sea Grant, seeks to use microbial source tracking to understand the location and passage of wastewater seeps from cesspools in the surrounding inhabited area throughout the watershed. His future interests revolve around supporting a more holistic "ridge to reef" framework to understand the biogeochemistry of the system in collaboration with the other researchers listed in this section.



The above attachment provides details of the Heʻeia NERRS.

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Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawai?i, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.