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Campaign Encourages Chemical-Free Landscaping to Protect Coral Reefs

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council staff members Meredith Beeson and Grace Sliver examine landscaping plants and discuss organic land care methods as part of the organization’s new Pesticide Education Program. Courtesy photo.

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council has launched an educational campaign to encourage private and public landowners, golf courses and landscapers to switch to organic land management.

The organization launched the campaign after gathering research on the impacts that toxic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers have on coral reefs and marine wildlife.

“Many people want to help protect the ocean, but they aren’t aware that they can do that through organic land management,” said Grace Silver, Project and Research Coordinator at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “This campaign will educate and encourage private and public landowners to give up use of chemical landscaping chemicals to protect the ocean environment and create a healthier and thriving microclimate on their own land.”

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is working with Beyond Pesticides, National Organic Farming Association and local organic land management experts to provide the community with helpful information for landowners and land management experts to make the switch to organic land management.

“Because cumulative impacts can be so detrimental, every single property that makes the switch will make a difference towards creating a cleaner and healthier environment around them,” organizers said.

“Numerous scientific studies have shown that the use of synthetic chemicals on land have significant and adverse impacts to coral reef ecosystems and aquatic species,” according to Silver. “Some of these negative impacts include coral reef bleaching, eutrophication, biomagnification, reproduction inhibition and increased disease in fish and marine wildlife.”

“Through our research, we’ve found that a majority of chemicals applied to our land for landscaping and pest control often end up in the ocean,”  said Meredith Beeson, Project and Research Coordinator at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “Once these chemicals make their way into aquatic environments, they harm coral reefs by hindering their ability to feed and reproduce.”

“To protect our oceans, this chemical runoff needs to be reduced (or ideally stopped) from reaching the ocean,” said Beeson. “The solution is organic land management.”

According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics by David Pimentel, less than 0.1 percent of pesticides applied for pest control reach their target pests. Thus, more than 99.9 percent of pesticides used move into the environment where they adversely affect public health and beneficial biota, and contaminate soil, water and atmosphere of the ecosystem, according to the MNMRC.

According to the MNMRC, problems caused by landscaping chemicals and synthetic fertilizers entering the marine environment include:

  • Tumor-causing diseases in turtles, as documented by the University of Hawaii — Manoa by Celia Smith and Walter Zimmermann.
  • Creation of dead zones through the process of eutrophication, as documented by InTeGrate in “Managing Runoff to Reduce the Dead Zone.”
  • Degradation of coral reefs, leading to economic impacts, as documented by University of Hawaii, Manoa in “Economic Value of Hawaii’s Nearshore Reefs.”
  • Death of zooxanthelle (coral symbiont) which leads to coral bleaching, as documented by the Marine Pollution Bulletin by C.M. Shaw, J. Brodie, and J.F. Mueller.
  • Potential human health impacts through chemical exposure, as documented by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“Whether you have a small yard or run a large-scale farm, organic land management can help protect Maui’s coral reefs and aquatic organisms,” said Beeson. “Another benefit of organic landscaping is that it ultimately allows the land to sustain itself without large amounts of human intervention, saving time, energy and money in the long run.”

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council has created a webpage at https://www.mauireefs.org/what-we-do/pesticides/ with resources to help land managers, owners and landscapers obtain more information on organic land management. These resources focus on common issues found in Maui County. 

Original source: https://mauinow.com/2021/02/26/campaign-encourages-chemical-free-landscaping-to-protect-coral-reefs/

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