Aloha and welcome to Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge! Part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Keālia is a sanctuary for many species that are native and endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.
Pink waters on Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge from halobacteria bloom
Keālia Pond halobacteria pink water

Keālia Pond pink water - UPDATE 12/22/23

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge have been monitoring the pink water on site since October 30, and have been working with the University of Hawai’i and other labs to identify what is causing it and to determine a course of action.

· According to preliminary analyses from UH Mānoa and George Washington University, more than 50% of the microbes in the water samples belonged to the bacterial genus Thiohalocapsa, which is part of a larger group known as the purple sulfur bacteria.

· Purple sulfur bacteria are commonly found in anoxic wetlands and other habitats depleted in dissolved oxygen. They usually perform anoxygenic photosynthesis, meaning oxygen is not produced during photosynthesis. This contrasts with photosynthesis in plants, which does produce oxygen.

· Bacteria in the purple sulfur bacteria are not all purple! A combination of pigments called carotenoids and bacteriochlorophylls, with which they harvest light, may color them brown, orange, purple, or red. Bacteriochlorophylls are not the same as chlorophyll used in plants.

· Are purple sulfur bacteria potentially a health risk to humans, wildlife, or the environment? Purple sulfur bacteria are crucial in nutrient cycling in the environment, particularly in the sulfur cycle. They can help reduce environmentally harmful compounds and odor emissions that can build up in anoxic water (Froján et al. 2021).

· We are still not sure why the bacteria bloom at the Keālia Coastal Boardwalk is so intense and vibrant but invite people to enjoy this natural phenomenon.

· We expect that the bloom will dilute and dissipate as Keālia Pond swells during the wet season.

As a precautionary measure, we recommend that people keep a safe distance and not enter the water, don’t consume any fish from the water, and ensure that pets don’t drink the water. 

Drones are not allowed on the Refuge.  Drones cause disturbance to the birds foraging, nesting, and resting on the refuge.  Link here for a list of the refuge rules and policies.

Visit Us

The seasonal conditions that occur at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge make it a notable place for people to observe Hawai‘i's endangered wetland birds, along with a diversity of feathered visitors from as far away as Alaska and Canada, and occasionally from Asia.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Keālia Pond NWR is a hidden wetland treasure transitioning the urban development and agriculture fields.  Here, endangered Hawaiian waterbirds are protected and go about their daily activities, and are joined by migratory birds in winter.  Quiet solitude for those that wander and explore the wetlands.  

      The protected wetland is home to the endangered ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt) and ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), providing nesting, feeding and resting habitat. In the winter months there are over 30 species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and migratory ducks at the refuge. 

      What We Do

      The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.