My friend, collaborator and post-doc advisor Dr Drew Harvell of Cornell University has published three articles in the New York Times Scientists at Work series about her current trip to the coral triangle.
In her Feb 1 post Drew describes her visit to the reefs of Papua, some pristine and diverse, some ravaged by dynamite fishing:
Underwater, our site, like many that I’ve seen in Indonesia, was a steep drop-off reef, with a wall stretching from 15 feet below the surface to more than 200 feet. The current was rapid, so this was going to be a drift dive, and by the end we managed to cover nearly a kilometer underwater. As I edged over the drop-off, I could see this was a spectacular reef from anyone’s perspective — clear, clean water and a dazzling array of coral reef fish.
We were rushed along by the current at a pretty good clip — fast enough that stopping wasn’t possible without grabbing for a rock outcrop. The wall was covered in rich reef-building corals that are solar-powered by their symbiotic algae, but also a myriad of brightly colored marine invertebrates like sponges, and sea squirts and soft corals that were dependent on the current to bring them food. And lots of overhangs and holes creating lobster condominiums, revealed by long antennae poking from the reef matrix.
In her first piece, Diving Into the Coral triangle, Drew wrote about the unbelievable biodiversity of the region the team witnessed.
What does it mean to be in the Coral Triangle at the center of marine biodiversity? It means there are roughly 590 species of reef-building coral here, more than any other region on the planet. Compare that with about 67 species in the Caribbean. There are also almost 4,000 species of tropical fishes in Indonesia, with 1,500 in the top-ranked region of Papua here. The Coral Triangle includes Indonesia; the Philippines; Malaysia; Papua New Guinea; the Solomon Islands; and Timor-Leste.
Go here for the whole series.