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Continuing Our Education: Why Monitoring Matters


We work on hundreds of restoration projects each year. And when we can, we return to monitor the results. Monitoring can help us evaluate our effectiveness and provide insight and direction for future projects.

In Hawai'i, invasive algae were smothering coral in Maunalua Bay and sediment was clouding the water. We weren't sure what was causing the algae to spread or where the sediment was coming from, but we knew they had to be addressed. We worked with The Nature Conservancy and hundreds of local workers to remove more than 3 million pounds of algae—by hand. After all that work, we monitored the site to see if the algae came back.

Now, three years later, the algae have started to return. And thanks to our monitoring efforts, we've been able to pinpoint the source: a pipe discharging sediment and fertilizer directly into the bay. Knowing the source of the problem allows us to address it directly.

In Washington, after helping with the removal of the Elwha dam, we supported ongoing monitoring efforts. Before the removal, fish (particularly salmon) had been blocked from the majority of their habitat for more than a century—resulting in a 90 percent reduction in population size. While we hoped the fish would return, we questioned their ability to adapt and use the new habitat after so long.

Monitoring showed that salmon started using the habitat almost immediately after the dam removal. And we've seen them residing in the cold water of the upstream tributaries for up to a year—growing big and strong—before migrating out to sea. The salmon are using a variety of newly-opened habitat: the beginnings of a self-sustaining population.

Posted September 16, 2013



Volunteers remove algae from coral in Maunalula Bay.
Fish swim in the restored Elwha River. Credit: John McMillan/NOAA.