Expedition to assess richness of Malaysian coral reefs.
AN international team of marine biologists has started a 20-day expedition to assess the health of the marine environment in part of the Coral Triangle, the world’s centre of marine biodiversity.
Experts from Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States will participate in the Semporna Marine Ecological Expedition (SMEE) from 29 November to 19 December 2010 within the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion in the waters off Semporna, Malaysia, a global priority conservation area.
The expedition can be followed on the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity (NCB) website, www.ncbnaturalis.nl. Real time updates on new findings as well as images and short videos will be posted until preliminary expedition results are announced at a press conference in Kota Kinabalu on 20 December.
According to WWF, there is an immediate need to document the amount of coral and fish diversity in all of Malaysia’s reefs to clarify how they function within the Coral Triangle region, which extends across the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.
Similar studies have been conducted across the territorial waters of many of the nations located in the Coral Triangle region, yet few have looked at Malaysia’s 7680km2 Semporna Priority Conservation Area.
Semporna is unusual because of its rich mix of reefs, representing 5 major reef types. This unique blend of habitat types and ecosystems means that many rare species are found in the area, some of which also inhabit Indonesia’s nearby Berau region. The expedition will assess the health of Semporna’s marine environment by examining its fish, coral and invertebrate populations with a modified version of the internationally standardized Reef Check methodology. This includes profiling at two different depths to take a “snapshot” of overall reef health and looking for the best ways to enhance conservation and outreach efforts to better protect Semporna’s rich marine resources.