island conservation kauai coastline

Hawai’i’s Deep Sea Might Help Explain Ecological Paradox

Researchers have returned from a deep-sea expedition hoping to explain why the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are so biologically rich.

There’s kind of this paradox: How can you have so much productivity around Hawai’i yet the surrounding ocean waters are literally a barren ocean landscape? -Jamison Gove, NOAA oceanographer

island conservation kailua from the water

View of Kailua. Credit: Dorothy/Flickr

A research team including scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bangor University and the University of Hawaii sampled sea life in a stretch of water off of Hawai’i and found the deep sea ecosystem to be an impressive biodiversity hotspot. The region was inhabited by Sawtooth Eels, Dragonfish and much more marine life.

The species richness surprised the scientists, given that the surrounding ocean waters do not harbor a high diversity of sea life. The scientists hope to better understand how this can be after analyzing the research findings. This new insight is expected to help inform management and policy needs in the region. Jack Kittinger, the senior director of the Hawai’i program at Conservation International, said:

We really have to do a good job of managing these special, amazing places, and Kona is absolutely one of them. If there’s one (hotspot) in Kona, there’s probably dozens and dozens of them in other places, including in Hawai’i. We just haven’t stuck anything down there to find them yet.

island conservation kona coast

Kona Coast. Credit: The Hippie Triathlete

While research conclusions are a year or two out, the scientists already have some suspicions. They believe that the sudden rise of the seafloor at island locations allows deep sea nutrients to well up and create the conditions for life to thrive.

Featured photo: Na Pali Coast, Kauai. Howard Ignatius
Source: Mining Gazette

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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