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Protecting Papahānaumokuākea


Environmental Threat Assessment for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument 

With limited resources and a multitude of threats, it can be difficult to determine the best ways to enforce the laws that protect national resources. Quantifying and visualizing natural and environmental threats helps resource managers select and prioritize the most effective enforcement options. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, encompassing nearly 140,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean. Established in 2006 under the Antiquities Act, the Monument’s remote islands, atolls, and reefs are home to a variety of cultural resources and diverse wildlife.

To help protect this pristine environment, we worked with Monument management trustees to evaluate threats, map key resources and assess vulnerability to the threats, and identify areas most at risk. Combining quantitative, qualitative, and geospatial information, the study helped Monument managers to more effectively allocate resources by focusing monitoring efforts on the most at-risk areas. We used a participatory approach to overcome substantial data limitations and ensure applicability of results, engaging scientists, natural resource managers, and enforcement officers throughout data collection and analysis.

More than 90% of nesting activity for the Hawaiian population of green sea turtles occurs in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. (Image courtesy of NOAA)