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PhD Defense

E-IPER Dissertation Defense - Rachel Carlson "Climate Resilience in the Coastal Zone: Coral Survival and Regrowth in the Hawaiian Archipelago"

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Event Details:

In-Person: Y2E2 299

Virtual: Zoom Webinar


Coral reefs are essential to marine life throughout the tropics, yet corals are under severe threat from climate change and other human activities. Rising ocean temperatures have caused large-scale bleaching and mortality in corals worldwide, jeopardizing marine biodiversity, coastal infrastructure, and livelihoods in fishing and tourism. This dissertation seeks to understand the conditions under which nearshore corals survive and rebound after heatwaves in the Hawaiian Islands and local management strategies for protecting reefs threatened by climate change. I use a combination of high-resolution remote sensing and field methods to analyze coastal interactions that affect coral survival during, and recovery after, ocean heatwaves. I first analyze the effect of sediment runoff on coral bleaching. I use high-resolution satellites to map sediment runoff across five islands during an ocean heatwave in Hawaiʻi, and measure the effect of turbidity on coral bleaching under different coastal land-use classes. Next, I analyze larval flow and juvenile coral growth in the coastal zone to identify conditions for coral regrowth after bleaching events. Finally, I assess drivers of coastal business participation in a possible “coral insurance” program that is designed to engage the private sector in funding coral restoration in Hawaiʻi. The outcomes of this research indicate specific actions that local communities can take to improve coral reef resilience and recovery under climate change.