Pacific Island-Alaska Projects

Phase 1 projects focused on whole watershed ecosystem science and management issues from "Ridge to Reef" in Hawai'i and from "Icefield to Ocean" in Southeast Alaska.

Steep, mountainous watersheds, dramatic climate gradients, and tight links between the land and sea are common features of both the Pacific Islands and Southeast Alaska. Climate change is significantly impacting the terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal ecosystems that communities in these two regions rely upon for food, water, recreation, and tourism. For example, changing weather patterns are leading to more frequent and severe extreme events such as storms, atmospheric rivers, droughts, and heat waves. Resource managers and communities need better information on variability and long‐term trends in drought; flooding; ocean chemistry; and land cover change.

Most of these projects ended in 2023 and we are currently working to synthesize the data across the two regions. Comparative work such as this will elucidate ecosystem processes being impacted by climate change that are common across these far-flung landscapes.

steep mountainside with snow and clouds

Analyzing future precipitation extremes for resource management planning

Drought and precipitation extremes are of significant concern to natural resource management in both Hawai‘i and Southeast Alaska. This project will make existing CASC-supported numerical modeling results more accessible for resource managers who experience barriers to incorporating climate change projections into their planning.

See more details about this project
hawaii coast

Connecting ecosystems from the mountains to the sea during a changing climate

Changes to streamflow patterns and precipitation impact river, estuary, and coastal ecosystems that host native aquatic species in Hawaiʻi rely on. PI-CASC researchers will work collaboratively with researchers in Alaska to expand the capacity in addressing climate impacts on aquatic ecosystems from the mountains to the sea.

This project will build upon existing efforts to assess the impact of changing climate on nine groups of native aquatic species, applying the concept of Ridge-to-Reef and using tools to prioritize conservation efforts for Hawaiʻi aquatic ecosystems.

See more details about this project
coral reef and fish

Coral response to land-to-ocean freshwater flux: A ridge-to-reef perspective

Nearshore marine environments provide ecosystem services such as sustenance, coastal protection, critical fish habitat, economic value through recreation and fisheries, medicinal products, and cultural importance and traditional activities. Using innovative 3D mapping technologies, researchers will examine how organic matter and nutrient flux influence the biology and ecology of coral reefs that are impacted by freshwater discharge, highlighting how patterns in stream flow alter land-to-ocean materials flux and productivity in marine habitats.

See more details about this project
stream in hawaii

From land to sea: How will hydrologic regime shifts influence aquatic ecosystems in Southeast Alaska and Hawaiʻi?

Streamflows are changing in both Hawaiʻi and Southeast Alaska, impacting riverine ecosystems and the marine ecosystems into which rivers flow. This project examines how changes in sequence affect nutrient cycling, how the timing of high and low-flow in rivers and streams will impact surrounding ecosystems, and how the human dimension is impacted by these changes.

See more details about this project
baby salmon

Influence of stream flow patterns on juvenile salmon foraging and growth in southeast Alaska

Changing streamflow patterns in Southeast Alaska alter nutrient cycling, sediment transport, and species composition. How this will impact salmon growth is unclear. Understanding the influence of flow regimes and other environmental factors on fish population dynamics has relevance for the conservation and management of fish populations, as well as the ecosystem as a whole.

See more details about this project

Understanding flooding processes in Hawaiʻi and Southeast Alaska

Different flood‐producing mechanisms may not change uniformly in a future climate, and floods may increase or decrease in magnitude or change in seasonal timing. To understand the effects of climate change on floods and how ecosystems and human communities may be affected by flood‐related changes, this project will look at the main flood‐producing mechanisms in high-elevation basins in Southeast Alaska and Hawaiʻi.

See more details about this project
armored catfish

Understanding nutrient transport through streamflow and fish populations

The overall goal of this project is to develop a multidisciplinary team to evaluate the effect of changing river flow on R2R and I2O watersheds. We will evaluate the effects of annual variability in flow conditions on the growth and survival of invasive armored suckermouth catfish in Hawaiian streams, and compare/contrast findings to a complementary study linking hydrology to freshwater salmon growth in Southeast Alaska.

See more details about this project