Look at a new kind of algae: it actively infects the waters of the Hawaiian Islands

Recently identified, fast-growing algae species pose a serious threat to coral reefs and the ocean ecosystem. They were previously discovered at the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument by a team of researchers from the University of Hawaii, the West Australian Herbarium, Charleston College, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The results were published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Recently named by researchers the alga Chondria tumulosa has no known origin. However, she has strangulation of whole reefs and corals, local algae, and other organisms that live on one of the northern atolls. The new species also has “reed-like” growth and appears to be easily detached and spread.

I think this is a warning about the changes that should occur with respect to the northwestern Hawaiian islands. Until now, we have not encountered such a serious problem as this, when we developed a harmful species, which made such profound changes in reefs in a short time.

Alison Sherwood, Professor, College of Natural Sciences, University of Manoa

This species was not widespread when it was first discovered by NOAA divers in 2016, but a visit to the same area in 2019 showed that it currently covers up to several thousand square meters on the Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

Until scientists understand whether this species is native or introduced and until it is clear what is causing this outbreak, it is imperative that research divers and vessels do not inadvertently transport this species to other islands. Now all the diving equipment of scientists is saturated with bleach and all the boats were sprayed with it before returning to Honolulu.

Researchers will conduct mapping and molecular analysis, as well as develop mitigation strategies to help develop appropriate management actions.

These are very destructive algae that can be overgrown with whole reefs, scientists warn. Now the main task of researchers is to find out where the new species is located at present and what can be done to manage it.