Journal

New Life, Kona Hema Preserve

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On thing that seems to remain constant on the slopes of Big Island volcanoes is the regeneration of plants. 

This example was discovered on the western flank of Mauna Loa in the Nature Conservancy's Kona Hema Preserve. 

Ferns are usually the first forms of life that arise from the lava and eventually make up much of the forests under canopy. 

I like the way the new growth of ferns contrast against the decaying background of its ancestors.  Deep in the shadows, the brilliant green stands out brilliantly.

Hawaii Considers Banning Sunscreens on Coral Reefs

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There's a move afoot in Hawaii state government to ban common types of sunscreens from ocean environments because research is showing this is a contributing factor to the death of corals.

in a recent article by CBS News experts warn that a UV filtering ingredient ozybenzone is the main culprit. This agent has a powerful effect and even at incredibly minute dilution rates. Just an ounce of this chemical in volume the size of a swimming pool can have consequences.

If Hawaii lawmakers pass a bill banning the use of these sunscreens it will be the first state to do so. There alternatives to using products containing oxybenzone; primarily ones that contain titanium or Inc, these are safe. 

My Take:

It's about time the Hawaii state government steps up to the plate on this issue. This is just one of many areas of conservation that direly needs to be addressed in Hawaii. There are other coral reef areas in the world that have had sunscreen bans in effect for decades. I remember stepping on to a snorkel excursion in Xcaret in Mexico many years ago. The staff were actually searching your belongings for sunscreens as they weren't even allowed on the boat. And this was Mexico.  

What with the myriad other impacts on corals like bleaching and rising sea water temperatures, any efforts we can take on a local effort is important. 

Why Places Like the Forests of Kahuku are Important

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The Kahuku tract of Volcanoes National Park was established a little over a decade ago and continues as a very special place of solitude for me. 

The atmosphere usually consists of mist and mystery - as if the forest has deep secrets that are hard to find. 

Perhaps the answers are in the presence of rare forest birds like the Akepa or the Akiapolaau.

I have found the Akepa only once on the Big Island in the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern edge of Mauna Kea. Although this species is possibly in few numbers in the upper reaches of the Kahuku, I've never seen it. 

Nevertheless, places like Kahuku (the land of which was purchased years ago by The Nature Conservancy), are super important for the protection it offers to endangered endemic plant and animal life. 

Still because of changes in outside disease influences like the Rapid Ohia Death problem that has plagued thousands of acres of island trees of recent, the efforts to protect what is here is intricate and demanding. 

For more information on Kahuku please visit the link on the National Park website.

Where to Find the Purest Color on Earth

Surf break during sunset at Laelele  

Surf break during sunset at Laelele  

Probably the most predominant color, especially on the Big Island, is black because it is the newest island and has A Whole Lot of lava everywhere.

However, what I find most fascinating about this fact is it enables the juxtaposition of other colors to really stand out. I think the natural beauty of Hawaii presents the purest light and color found nowhere else.

This photo was captured at sunset during the winter month of February when large ocean swells are common along the Kona coast. The backlight perfectly illuminates the color of the ocean.

The Demise of Coral Reefs Worldwide Through Current Bleaching Event Considered Catastrophic

A view of Thetford Reef along the Great Barrier Reef. I made this photograph several years ago. Not sure what the condition of the coral is like now.

A view of Thetford Reef along the Great Barrier Reef. I made this photograph several years ago. Not sure what the condition of the coral is like now.

There have been a spate of articles recently outlining the alarming coral destruction event currently underway including a story from the Guardian with interviews from prominent scientists from NOAA's Reef Watch program.

Evidentially this is the third event in the last 20 years or so and this one is by far the worst. It's estimated that the kill rate could be upwards of 40% of all the coral reefs on earth. Let me say that again: 40 percent dead, extinct, poof! One expert with the non-profit group Reef Watch asserts that the bio-diversity loss could rival the last mass extinction.

 

NOAA forecast map of coral distress. 

NOAA forecast map of coral distress. 

El Niño the Culprit  

El Niño occurs when the waters of the equatorial Pacific warm to a certain threshold temperature that helps foster unusual weather patterns, often very distant from the point of origin. The event that's happening now is the strongest in years and may well last until next summer. It's believed that climate change is accelerating the pace and severity of El Niño. Also the chemistry of the oceans is dynamically changing and becoming more acidic.

All of these favors are combining to drive this coral bleaching destruction. 

Hawaii Especially Hit Hard

With the previous two bleaching events Hawaii was largely spared from the most damaging coral effects. But not this time. According to NOAA scientists this event actually started in Hawaii in 2014 and has damaged even pristine virtually untouched reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Here's a link to more info from NOAA.