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Marine conservation organizations team up to conduct Indonesia coral reefs assessment


Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Reef Check and World Conservation Union to examine damage to tsunami-affected coral reefs; mission set to start next week

Three leading marine conservation organizations will complete an extensive survey next week along the west coast of Aceh Province, Indonesia, to determine the impact of last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami on the region’s coral reefs.

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Reef Check and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) will carry out a two-week survey from October 17-31 of over 600 kilometers of Aceh’s southwest coast to examine the damage to the coral reefs. The survey results will indicate how much of the coral reef structure was damaged by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami and may provide some early insight into the natural recovery process including the success of corals to reproduce and grow.

"The health of the coral reef ecosystem along the Sumatra coastline is vital to the well-being of the people of Indonesia who depend upon the rich resources of the sea. This survey will help us understand the extent of the damage to the coral reefs from the tsunami and therefore guide management decisions to assist their natural recovery," said Capt. Philip Renaud, USN (Ret.), Executive Director of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.

"It is a notable accomplishment that three marine conservation organizations – the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, Reef Check and The World Conservation Union – have joined forces to examine the extent of the earthquake and tsunami damage on the Sumatra marine ecosystem. This survey will stand as a model to show how environmental groups can and should work together to understand and preserve the marine ecosystem. It brings to life the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s objective of conserving living oceans through the practice of Science Without Borders®," Capt. Renaud added.

The survey outcomes will be incorporated into the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network’s (GCRMN) "Post-Tsunami Status of Coral Reefs Report" – a special report in the "Status of Coral Reefs of the World" series, which provides the present state of coral reef health around the world. The complete status report will be released in early 2006.

"It is extremely important to determine the status of the reefs in order to predict future food availability from the sea in this area," said Reef Check Director Gregor Hodgson, Ph.D., who will be coordinating the two-week expedition. "This disaster presents a great opportunity to reinforce the concepts of marine management in Indonesia and to ensure that sufficient reef areas are protected such that fish and shellfish can prosper and reproduce."

Shipboard expedition participants include: British marine biologist Annelise Hagan, Ph.D., the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation Research Fellow at Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; Sri Lankan marine biologist Nishan Perera of IUCN; Reef Check Indonesia ichthyologist Yunaldi, M.D.; dive instructor Cipto Gunawan; a diving medical doctor Onny M.D.; and two seasoned Aceh-based Reef Check scientists.

The October survey will use rapid survey techniques called "manta tows" with detailed Reef Check Plus surveys carried out at regular intervals. A manta tow involves towing a diver behind a boat while they record observations regarding ecological condition on an underwater slate. The Reef Check survey is the only standard method used to survey the world’s reefs. Initial surveys in the region conducted by Reef Check and other marine conservation organizations have revealed varying levels of reef damage, with some reefs being entirely uplifted out of the sea and destroyed.

Alan Greilsamer | EurekAlert!
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