An understanding of the connections between mountains and ocean — mauka and makai — is rooted in ancient Hawaiian culture. Today, invasive species and human impacts are threatening to clog Molokai’s reef — the most extensive coral reef in the Main Hawaiian Islands — with sediment washed down from the mountain slopes. Today, scientists are doing studies to provide proof of this evidence and offer their data to help find solutions. And today, Molokai residents are meeting together to discuss those solutions and taking action to protect the island’s most valuable resources — both the mountains and the ocean.
“You don’t simply get this [muddy water] after a rainfall,” said Jim Jacobi, an ecosystems research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), referring to the brown water frequently seen on Molokai’s south shore. “Erosion is a part of geology but understanding what is a normal… rate versus an accelerated rate from human impacts [is important].”