We’re journeying to the global center of marine biodiversity. Care to come along?
Starting today and continuing on through Nov. 30, Sangeeta Mangubhai and I will be conducting a monitoring expedition to Raja Ampat (meaning, in Bahasa Indonesian, “the Four Kings”). It’s a breathtaking place, dotted with island-fringing coral reefs, deep seamounts and even some karst formations. It’s home to over 1,400 species of fish and over 550 species of coral (that’s 75 percent of all species currently in existence), making it perhaps the richest marine environment on Earth.
Dedicated readers of the Cool Green Science blog will recall a similar expedition from 2009. That’s when Alison Green and a team of divers conducted the last thorough monitoring trip in Southeast Misool, the largest marine protected area (MPA) in a network of MPAs strung across Raja Ampat.
While the creation of that network was a crucial conservation step for these waters, the threats to coral reefs are increasing daily. That’s why we’re headed back to Misool with 6 marine scientists, a representative from the Raja Ampat fisheries agency and local community members aboard the Putiraja, a live-aboard diving boat that has partially sponsored our trip.
Our primary objective is gathering information that will help us refine how we go about protecting one of the world’s most spectacular marine environments, which provides local people with the food and income they need to survive. We’re sailing off with a wealth of questions, but there are three especially pressing issues for us — and for anyone interested in the health of our planet’s coral reefs. Those questions are:
- How effective has the 425,000-square-kilometer “no-take zone” (area where no fishing is permitted) been in protecting marine resources?
- Are there some reefs with particularly high biodiversity or productivity that we should be protecting to serve as “fish banks” for the rest of Southeast Misool?
- How did the region react to the coral bleaching event that struck reefs worldwide in 2010? (And an important subquestion: what can we learn about reef resilience — one of the great hopes for coral survival — from Misool’s recent history?)
The trip should yield answers to these questions — and it should also yield some great stories, stunning images and on-location footage. Technology permitting, we’ll be posting all those things and more right here on this blog over the next several weeks.
Explore further coverage of this expedition on nature.org and learn more about the Conservancy’s involvement in the game-changing Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security.
Dr. Joanne Wilson is the deputy director for science for the Conservancy’s Indonesia Marine Program. She has over 15 years experience in marine science on a diverse range of projects including oyster diseases in Tasmania, coral spawning in Queensland and coastal ecology and management in New South Wales, Australia.
Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai is the Bird’s Head senior technical advisor for the Conservancy’s Indonesia Marine Program. She has 15 years of conservation science and marine protected area management experience from Indonesia, Australia, the Pacific and East Africa.