Please select your home edition
Edition
North Sails 2019 - NSVictoryList - Leaderboard

Nature fighting back: Maldives reefs showing resilience

by Dr. Matthias Hammer 2 Oct 04:30 UTC
Citizen scientists surveying a reef near Muscat. © Biosphere Expeditions

Biosphere Expeditions, the Marine Conservation Society, Reef Check Maldives and local Maldives environmental group Save the Beach Maldives have just returned from a 250 km expedition around the central Maldives, the ninth annual survey of its kind sine 2010. They found, against expectations, that corals are showing some resilience, adaptability and even recovery from climate change effects.

Reefs the world over are dying from rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution and overexploitation. The situation is much the same in the Maldives, as previous Biosphere Expeditions surveys and a very recent scientific paper have shown.

So the expedition scientist (and co-author of the recent paper) Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt this year expected more dead and dying reefs. But what he and his team of citizen scientists found instead are signs of hope and recovery.

Dr. Solandt: "We were devastated in 2016 when a global warming event killed off large swathes of the reefs. The reefs showed little recovery in 2017 and 2018, and we expected more bad news in 2019. However, this year we saw many baby (<1 year) and young corals (1-3 years), as well as different species of corals growing vigorously at sites that we expected to be dead or dying. It was surprising and encouraging to see a greater diversity of corals 'pushing through' from the dead layer below. It seems nature is fighting back with a coral diversity explosion. We have seen resilience (of corals that are resistant to bleaching), adaptability (some reefs have other species coming through) and recovery (baby corals are almost everywhere) this year", concludes Solandt.

"It's not all plain sailing, though;", adds Solandt, "many reefs are still very badly affected and some have died altogether. And another temperature spike would kill many of the new corals we've seen. Also, some small corals that had settled on the reef in the last year, which we thought were resistant to bleaching, were now bleached, but the larger ones seem OK. Finally, the background temperature is still 'hot' at the bleaching threshold of 30 degrees Celsius in very shallow water."

The recent change in government in the Maldives is another cause for some optimism. Hussein Zahir, head of LaMer, one of the expedition's local partner organisations, notes that the government has indicated that it "understands the close link between oceans, climate change and the wellbeing of communities. This is a good start, as is the establishment of a National Research Institute that includes environment, health and social issues - a sort of think-tank and an infrastructure for science-based knowledge and understanding of the issue. And apparently the income from the Green Tax that has been levied on the tourism sector, will now be spent exclusively on the environment".

One of the outstanding sites regularly visited by the annual Biosphere Expeditions surveys called 'Rasdhoo Madivaru', has also recently been declared a Marine Protected Area. It is both resilient to the worst bleaching effects, and harbours large megafauna such as sharks, manta rays, turtles and Napoleon wrasse. "Our expeditions have highlighted this site for the past nine years, as being of extraordinary biodiversity value", says Solandt.

Dr. Matthias Hammer, Executive Director of Biosphere Expeditions believes that "all those involved in the last nine years of expeditions - from professional to citizen scientists to local and international partners - can be very proud about the in-depth understanding and description of bleaching patterns we have reached and that we have been involved in the designation of an MPA. This is yet another feather in our cap of achievements through citizen science and community-based conservation, and an important stepping stone for tackling the adverse effects of climate change in the Maldives. It shows how ordinary people and grassroots action can make a difference".

Further surveys will be carried out by Save the Beach Maldives and Reef Check Maldives. These local organisations, the latter created by graduates of the Biosphere Expeditions placement programme, will "also train more local divers to survey their own reefs in the future, and set up more community-based reef conservation efforts", according to Hassan 'Beybe' Ahmed, a placement programme graduate who runs Save the Beach Maldives and Reef Check Maldives. The Biosphere Expeditions annual survey will return to the Maldives in August next year.

Related Articles

Canadian sailor conducts global sailing risk study
Considered the first of its kind, the review will capture data on sailing risks rPM3 today announced the launch of a new Sailing Risk Assessment to gather feedback from the global sailing community to identify and measure the potential risks of sailing. Posted on 3 Dec
7 tips to keep you safe on the water this winter
With colder air and water temperatures it's crucial to be prepared Regardless of the region in which you live, the winter season brings added tips to help you stay safe on the water. With colder air and water temperatures, it's crucial to be prepared for anything if you happen to be heading out on the water Posted on 10 Nov
Cruising the Seychelles
The crew of Starry Horizons have done it again After a full and detailed report of their time in the Maldives last month, the crew of Starry Horizons have done it again with an extremely useful report about their time in Seychelles - according to them the highlight of the Indian Ocean so far. Posted on 3 Nov
Restoring coral gardens in Fiji
An ancient life form, corals are threatened by climate change Conservation organizations are harnessing everything from tribal taboos to the world's largest fleet of satellites in order to save the ocean's most biodiverse habitat: coral reefs. Posted on 28 Oct
Operation ATALANTA assists Somali Navy Personnel
Seven Somali Navy sailors were brought to safety On the morning of 20 October 2019, EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA received a request to assist a vessel belonging to the Somali Navy in distress some 60 km north of Cadale. Posted on 23 Oct
Ascension Island set for MPA
Soon to be the largest marine protected area in the Atlantic Ocean This large-scale Marine Protected Area (MPA) will cover 100% of Ascension's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area of more than 440,000 square km, making it one of the largest MPA's in the world. Posted on 22 Oct
Cruising the Dalmatian Islands
Putting aside racing dinghies and trying bareboat charter in Croatia This is the story of the Croatian travels of Liz and Andrew Potter who put aside their four single-handed racing dinghies for a week in favour of an alternative salty adventure in a 38ft yacht on a bareboat charter. Posted on 19 Oct
World's largest 3D printed boat
The world's largest 3D printer and largest 3D-printed object More than 250 federal and state officials, business executives, University of Maine System leaders and community members were on hand to witness the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center receive three Guinness World Records on Oct. Posted on 13 Oct
Philippe Briand unveils new self-sufficient yacht
60m sailing yacht concept Following the release of SY 300, a 90-metre (300-feet) concept this spring, Philippe Briand has announced a second concept from this family of self-sufficient performance yachts: Perfect 60. Posted on 3 Oct
Weather Watch: Hurricane Dorian
The Caribbean hurricane season runs through to the end of November Many of you will have enjoyed cruising in the northern Bahamas in the past and have felt helpless watching as the slow, but incredibly powerful hurricane, passed thru the islands at the start of September, leaving a trail of devastation behind. Posted on 2 Oct
North Sails 2019 - NSVictoryList - FooterGJW Direct - Yacht 2019 - FooterMarine Resources 2019 - Footer