Dr Dave Smith and Dr Dave Suggett visited Curieuse Island as part of an ongoing study funded by Mitsubishi Corporation in conjunction with the Earthwatch Institute. They were joined by PhD student Seb Hennige as well as local Seychelles collaborators.
The island, which is managed by the Seychelles Centre of Marine Research and Technology-Marine Protected Areas (SCMRT-MPA), is home to over 200 giant tortoises but it was thought no coral reefs were present.
Dr Smith said: ‘Diving revealed an extensive coral reef to the south of the island, at a depth which would not be visible to the occasional snorkeller.’
As well as discovering the reef, Dr Smith and Dr Suggett found signs of destruction, and subsequent recovery, caused by the 2004 tsunami.
Speaking of their other findings, Dr Smith said: ‘From the field data we were able to design experiments to test species ability to tolerate climate change events in a makeshift laboratory. These studies demonstrated that there are clear physiological differences between the tolerant and sensitive species, and provided evidence for different mechanisms.’
He added: ‘Our findings will result in a change in approach to how we design future experiments to predict the fate of coral reefs faced with climate change.’
The high diversity and productivity of the reef supports a large number of mega-fauna including one tiger shark which was so curious during one of the research dives it got a little too close for comfort!
The team was also joined by a writer from National Geographic Japan and their findings have resulted in a plan by authorities to establish a centre of marine field-based research on Curieuse Island.
Dr Smith has since been elected to the SCMRT-MPA research steering committee.
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