Friday, May 24, 2013

The Humåtak Project

Back in November 2012 the Micronesia Challenge posted a short article about the Humåtak Project. This project is a community effort working to revive Guam’s watersheds, coral reefs, and fisheries using watershed restoration activities.  The project began in 2002 after local fisherman noticed a decline  in fish catch, which they attributed to excessive sedimentation on the reef.  The goals of the project are to: 1) build awareness of environmental issues through educational and community outreach, 2) treat sources of sedimentation by implementing erosion control practices, and 3) improve the science of mitigating for impacts to coral reefs and other aquatic resources by monitoring changes in sedimentation rates and coral reef health. 

Over the past couple years this project has become quite visible with the help of Austin Shelton, the project coordinator, and the community of Humåtak.  With presentations at the 2012 and 2013 Guam Island Sustainability Conference and educational hikes focused on the watershed restoration projects currently underway within the La Sa Fu’a Watershed,  the project is gaining momentum and support.  Since this project addresses resource issues in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, Austin has teamed up with a variety of local and federal natural resource agencies, educational institutions, community groups, and local environmental educational organizations to help the project reach its goals.  Through tree plantings, sediment sock installations, public outreach, community meetings, and follow-up tree fertilization, watershed restoration has begun.  

So, what’s next?  

The project will now begin monitoring coral reef health in Fouha Bay to assess the progress of the watershed restoration efforts.  This is where the Long-term Coral Reef Monitoring Program Team  (GCMP) comes in!  Biologists with the Bureau of Statistics and Plans – Guam Coastal Management Program, the University of Guam Marine Lab, and the NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office have been monitoring coral reefs at different sites around Guam since 2010 (for more information on the monitoring program see the post from March 2012).  With their knowledge of Guam’s coral reef ecosystems and monitoring experience, they will help the Humåtak Project reach their third goal – assessing if the watershed restoration efforts are improving the health of the reef ecosystem.  To help figure this out, three different types of indicators of reef ecosystem health will be assessed and monitored: water quality, coral habitat, and associated biological communities (e.g., reef fishes, crown of thorns sea stars, sea cucumbers, trochus, and other ecologically and economically important reef organisms).  

Austin has begun monitoring water quality by placing sediment traps and multiparameter datasondes throughout the bay.  These datasondes collect data about turbidity (cloudiness of the water), temperature, and salinity, and when combined with the sediment trap data, will tell us how much sediment is coming into the bay and how it is affecting the quality of the water in the bay.

The monitoring program team will be monitoring ecosystem health through regular assessments of coral habitat and associated biological communities.  The specific parameters to be monitored are benthic cover, coral colony size, coral health, fish diversity and biomass, and the abundance of commercially and ecologically important macroinvertebrates.  Once all the data has been collected it will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Humåtak Project.  Our hope is to see a revived watershed with a healthy coral reef ecosystem which supports the communities within the La Sa Fu’a watershed.

As this project is still underway, you can keep updated with its progress by checking out the Humåtak Project website at, check their Facebook page at, or by emailing the project coordinator at

Also, if you are looking for a way to get involved in this great project, consider joining the Guam Community Coral Reef Monitoring Program in their surveys of Fouha Bay.  Check them out here:

Posted by
Roxanna Miller
1:50 pm

Friday, May 24, 2013
Location: Hagatna, Guam

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