Researchers continue studies of effects of water circulation and sedimentation on benthic communities at Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa

By Bernardo Vargas-Ángel

Members of the benthic and oceanography teams of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) are on a 2-week deployment on Tutuila, American Samoa, as part of 2 projects funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. Both projects aim to establish much needed baselines to better understand and mitigate the effects of land-based sources of pollution, such as runoff and sedimentation, on the coral reef communities in Faga`alu Bay.

NOAA diver Marie Ferguson on April 5 conducts a survey of corals, using the belt-transect method, in Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa. NOAA photo by Michelle Johnston

NOAA diver Marie Ferguson on April 5 conducts a survey of corals, using the belt-transect method, in Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa. NOAA photo by Michelle Johnston

Close-up of a coral community of the shallow backreef in Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa, as seen in this photo taken on April 5. NOAA photo by Michelle Johnston

Close-up of a coral community of the shallow backreef in Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa, as seen in this photo taken on April 5. NOAA photo by Michelle Johnston

The primary goal of this mission, which concludes on April 11, is twofold:  (1) retrieve oceanographic instruments, including wave-and-tide recorders, current meters, and salinity and temperature recorders, that were deployed in March and April 2012 at strategic sites inside and outside of Faga`alu Bay to better profile water flow patterns and sediment residence times and (2) conduct surveys at nearly 40 sites to acquire detailed data on coral community demographics (size class) and health condition to expand and complement the benthic assessments conducted on March and August 2012 for one of the projects.

Jeff Anderson and Matt Dunlap of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division finish a benthic survey, which they conducted by snorkeling, in Faga`alu Bay on April 4. NOAA photo by Oliver Vetter

Jeff Anderson and Matt Dunlap of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division finish a benthic survey, which they conducted by snorkeling, in Faga`alu Bay on April 4. NOAA photo by Oliver Vetter

A team of 5 CRED researchers is conducting the surveys and retrieving the instruments: Oliver Vetter, Marie Ferguson, Matt Dunlap, Jeff Anderson, and Bernardo Vargas-Ángel. The two projects are “Inter-disciplinary study of flow dynamics and sedimentation effects on coral colonies in Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa” and “Comprehensive baseline assessment and development of performance measures for Faga`alu Bay, American Samoa.”

These projects support the development, implementation, and effectiveness of local action plans for reef-to-ridge watershed conservation and management. They have received instrumental support from partner agencies, including the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office (Fatima Sauafea-Le`au), NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (Michelle Johnston and Wendy Cover), American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) (Domingo Ochivallo), San Diego State University (Trent Biggs and Alex Messina), American Samoa Community College (Kelley Anderson Tagarino), and the Faga`alu watershed community working group.

We’d like to extend special thanks to the American Samoa office of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries for the use of their boat, the R/V Manuma, and to the DMWR for the use of their secure dock for this mission. The use of intergovernmental resources has been a huge help in making this mission go smoothly, safely, and within budget. We look forward to fostering these and other collaborations as we continue to work together for the betterment of reefs in American Samoa.

Matt Dunlap, Jeff Anderson, and Marie Ferguson of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division contemplate the day’s plan aboard the R/V Manuma, dockside at the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources in Pago Pago Harbor on April 2. NOAA photo by Oliver Vetter

Matt Dunlap, Jeff Anderson, and Marie Ferguson of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division contemplate the day’s plan aboard the R/V Manuma, dockside at the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources in Pago Pago Harbor on April 2. NOAA photo by Oliver Vetter

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