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Marine biologist aims to preserve Seychelles reef


The Coral Reef Research Unit (CRRU) at the University of Essex has been awarded a grant to explore unknown coral reefs around an un-explored island in the Seychelles.

The research, funded by the EarthWatch Institute and Mitsubishi, will start in July 2006.

Dr David Smith, Director of the CRRU, recently returned from the annual EarthWatch PI conference where he presented a paper about the research: ’Scientists from all over the world met to discuss their research and the ways to maximise public awareness of the current threats to global biodiversity. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss global issues and this grant represents a very exciting and challenging opportunity for the CRRU.’

The research will focus on the previously unexplored reefs off the coast of Silhouette Island in the northeast Seychelles group. Dr Smith said: ’Despite being located in the biggest protected area of the Seychelles, no one has ever surveyed the marine environment and everything we find will be new. Due to the outer Seychelles bank, Silhouette Island was spared by the Asian tsunami and a previous El Nino event that occurred during 1998 which killed up to 90 per cent of the coral reefs within the region. We therefore think it possible that these reefs could act as a biological reserve and seed other areas of the Seychelles.’

With tourism the main industry in the Seychelles, development of the island is a real threat. It will be up to Dr Smith, in collaboration with Drs Richard Barnes, David Barnes and Justin Gerlach, all of the University of Cambridge, to collect data and demonstrate to the Seychelles government the regional importance of the area and the potential consequences of development for the whole Seychelles archipelago.

Dr Smith will fly to the island in the New Year to prepare for the arrival of the first research team in July 2006.

Kate Clayton | alfa
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