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The pond at the Hawaii Wildlife Refuge has turned pink, potentially due to drought conditions.
Science & Health

The pond at the Hawaii Wildlife Refuge has turned pink, potentially due to drought conditions.

Scientists have identified a pond in Hawaii that has transformed into a vibrant shade of bubblegum pink. While this may seem like something out of a Barbie movie, the unusual occurrence is not a reason for celebration. Experts attribute the pink color to a drought and caution against swimming or consuming the water.

The employees at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Maui have been observing the pink water since October 30th.

Bret Wolfe, the manager of the refuge, shared that he received a report from an individual who was strolling along the beach. The person contacted him to report something unusual happening in the area.

Wolfe was worried that the vibrant pink color could indicate an algae bloom, however, laboratory analyses revealed that toxic algae was not responsible for the hue. It is possible that halobacteria, a type of organism, is responsible for the color.

Halobacteria, also known as archaea, are a single-celled organism that flourishes in highly salty bodies of water. The salinity in the outlet area of Kealia Pond is currently over 70 parts per thousand, which is double the salinity of seawater. To accurately determine the identity of the organism, the laboratory will need to perform a DNA analysis.

The dry conditions on Maui are likely a factor in the current situation. Usually, Waikapu Stream provides water to Kealia Pond and raises its levels, but according to Wolfe, this has not occurred in a while.

If it rains, the main pond at Kealia will receive water from the stream, which will then flow into the outlet area that is currently pink. This may decrease the saltiness of the water and possibly alter its color.

Wolfe suggested that this could be the reason for its disappearance.

None of the individuals at the sanctuary have witnessed the pond in this particular hue before, including volunteers who have been present for 70 years. Despite experiencing periods of extreme dryness and elevated salinity in the past, Wolfe cannot explain the current change in color.

Inquisitive individuals have gathered at the park following the spread of pictures of the rosy pond on social media.

Wolfe made a joke about how although they would prefer visitors to come and learn about their mission of protecting native and endangered waterbirds and restoring wetlands, most people are more interested in seeing the pink water.

He comprehends the captivation of others.

He stated that if that method brings them success, then it is acceptable. He also mentioned that it is impressive.

The wetland of the wildlife refuge is a home for the endangered Hawaiian stilt, also known as aeo, and the Hawaiian coot, or alae keokeo. It offers a safe place for nesting, feeding, and resting, and also welcomes migratory birds during the colder months.

Wolfe stated that the birds do not seem to be affected by the water.

As a sanctuary for wildlife, it is prohibited for individuals to enter the pond or allow their pets to swim in it, regardless of its appearance. However, authorities are urging people to exercise extra caution and refrain from entering the water or consuming any fish caught there, as the cause of the unusual color has not been determined.