Hawaii’s Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge Experiences Unusual Pink Water Phenomenon, Possibly Linked to Drought Conditions

by Lucas Garcia
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Pink Water Phenomenon

An unusual sight has emerged at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Maui, Hawaii, where the water has turned a vivid pink reminiscent of bubble-gum. This occurrence, while visually striking, is not a reason for celebration. Experts suggest that drought conditions might be responsible for this peculiar coloration, and caution is advised against entering or consuming the water.

Since October 30, the staff at the refuge has been closely observing this phenomenon. Bret Wolfe, the refuge manager, was alerted to the situation by a beachgoer who noticed the unusual color. A photograph taken on November 8, 2023, by Leslie Diamond further illustrates the striking transformation that occurred at the pond.

Initial concerns pointed towards an algae bloom, but laboratory tests have ruled out toxic algae as the cause. Instead, the presence of halobacteria, a type of single-celled organism thriving in high-salinity water, is suspected. The salt concentration in the affected area of Kealia Pond is currently over 70 parts per thousand, significantly higher than that of seawater. Wolfe mentioned that a definitive identification of the organism would require DNA analysis.

The ongoing drought in Maui is believed to be a contributing factor. The Kealia Pond usually receives water from the Waikapu Stream, which has not been the case for some time. This lack of freshwater influx has led to increased salinity and possibly the pink hue. Wolfe anticipates that rainwater flowing into the pond could dilute the salt concentration, potentially restoring the pond’s normal color.

Despite the novelty of the pink water, which has attracted numerous visitors after images circulated on social media, the primary focus of the refuge remains on conserving native and endangered waterbirds and wetland restoration. Wolfe humorously remarks on the unexpected surge in visitors drawn by the pink water, yet acknowledges its role in bringing attention to the refuge.

The wildlife refuge, a crucial habitat for endangered species like the Hawaiian stilt (aeo) and the Hawaiian coot (alae keokeo), along with migratory birds in winter, has not reported any adverse effects on the birds due to the water’s color. However, as a precautionary measure, officials are warning against wading, letting pets into the pond, or consuming fish from it until the source of the color change is fully understood.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pink Water Phenomenon

What is causing the water at Kealia Pond Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii to turn pink?

The unusual pink coloration of the water at Kealia Pond is likely due to drought conditions and the presence of halobacteria.

Is the pink water harmful to the wildlife at the refuge?

No, there have been no reported harmful effects on the birds and wildlife inhabiting the refuge.

Can visitors enter the pink water or consume fish caught in it?

As a precaution, officials are advising against entering the water or consuming fish from the pond until the source of the color change is fully understood.

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