Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation into the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Management Plan
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM) is situated in the northwestern portion of the Hawaiian Archipelago and is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. Management of the Monument is the responsibility of three co-trustees: the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 2008, the co-trustees developed the PMNM Management Plan for ensuring coordinated management of the natural, cultural, and historic resources of the Monument. The PMNM Management Plan provides a framework for the comprehensive understanding of climate change impacts, and management is poised to develop adaptation strategies to these impacts.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are small islands and atolls located northwest of the islands of Kauai and Niihau. Due to their geographic remoteness and limited access for human activities, the NWHI are one of the most “natural” coral reef ecosystems in existence. This nearly pristine ecosystem supports an abundance of large apex predators, high numbers of endemic species, and important habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species. Since 1909, eight of the ten NWHI have been protected as a national wildlife refuge, and in June 2006, nearly 140,000 square miles of the marine environment was designated as the Papahānaumokuākea (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) Marine National Monument (PMNM). The designation of this monument provided immediate and permanent protection to the area and established a management structure involving the State of Hawaii, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA. In 2008, a draft PMNM Management Plan was created for ensuring the coordinated management of coral reef ecosystems and related environments, as well as the cultural and historic resources of the Monument. Although the PMNM Management Plan does not specifically address climate change management actions and adaptation strategies, it provides a framework for the comprehensive understanding of the effects of climate change on the NWHI.
The PMNM Management Plan does not address climate change management actions specifically, but provides a framework for integrating strategies that focus on climate (e.g., through research and monitoring, education and outreach, and review and synthesis). For example, a number of specific research activities to examine the effects of climate change on the NWHI ecosystem were suggested:
- Determine the effect of sea level rise on nesting sites of protected species (e.g., Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtle)
- Identify specific habitats, communities, and populations that will be affected by climate change
- Identify habitat changes that will result from sea level rise
- Map areas that will be most affected by extreme weather events
- Distinguish anthropogenic impacts from natural variability of the physical environment
Long-term monitoring programs relevant to climate change have also been, and will continue to be, conducted in the NWHI including the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Science Center, which integrates ecological studies with environmental data to comprehensively assesses ecosystems; the Coral Reef Ecosystem Integrated Observing System focused on mapping, monitoring, and observing ecological and environmental conditions; and Coral Reef Watch, which identifies bleaching “hotspots” and low-wind areas. In addition, a collaborative effort to establish an ocean observing system to monitor the key parameters of climate change impacting reef ecosystems has been proposed.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The PMNM Management Plan was formally adopted in 2008. While it does not specifically address climate change management actions and adaptation strategies, it does provide a framework for a comprehensive understanding of the effects of climate change on the NWHI. This will better inform and prepare managers to cope with climate change-related issues.
Project File (s)
Kershner, J. (2010). Incorporating Climate Change Adaptation into the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Management Plan [Case study on a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/incorporating-climate-change-adaptati… (Last updated December 2010)