“Greening” of Barren Hillsides Lets Sun Shine Bright on Corals

An innovative project funded and co-led by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program is bringing life-giving sunshine back to coral reefs that shelter reef fish and sea turtles along the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands coast. In Rota’s Talakyaha watershed, community volunteers and other partners planted thousands of seedlings to stabilize bare hillsides eroded by burning and deforestation. These grasses, small trees, and shrubs have grown, turning dusty hillsides green once again and dramatically lessening sediment runoff that had formerly blocked sunlight and buried corals in layers of soil.

A large sediment plume previously visible from land has shrunk, and nearby corals are shedding soil layers and soaking up the sunlight. The continued growth of plantings will ensure that soil remains on land, not on corals and downhill habitats. (2016)

Partners: Community volunteers, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Forestry, Coral Reef Conservation Program