The World Does Not Stand Still - Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change in Papahānaumokuākea

August 19, 2021

Dr. Dan Polhemus, Aquatic Ecosystems and Environmental Contaminants program manager at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Islands

Current and future impacts from climate change are considered to be the single greatest threat to the long-term integrity of Papahānaumokuākea. The effects of climate change are already being observed, with rising sea levels leading to shoreline retreat, increasing ocean heat content producing more frequent and severe coral bleaching events, and a more westward trajectory for tropical cyclones inflicting severe damage to certain atolls, notably Lalo (French Frigate Shoals). Current modelling indicates that all these stressors will continue to impact the Monument to progressively greater degrees going forward, producing major resource management challenges. A climate change vulnerability assessment for the Monument was completed in 2016, and the managers are now moving forward to convert this into an action plan that will facilitate future climate adaptation.

This presentation is part of the Third Thursday By the Bay Presentation Series at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center that is the visitor center for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. This State of the Monument lecture series is also supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.