Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why are these reefs so healthy?

Five lined snappers on Hadahaa house reef
So for four months now I have been living on this beautiful island paradise, and having lived and dived all over the world, and having experienced some truly magnificent things in the ocean, I was originally dubious as to whether this would live up to my high expectations. However when I reflect on my position as Resident Marine biologist and EarthCheck coordinator here, I really do not think it can get much better than this. I really do have the best job in the world!

I often think back to how sceptical I was sitting in a restaurant in London, talking through the job with my predecessor. I probably even gave a little eye role as she talked about how healthy the reef was and how high the species diversity was. However after living here and diving here for all this time I really can say my arrogance was unjust.

After recently watching Greg Stones' Mission Blue TED talk on The Phoenix Island and The republic of Kiribati, it got me thinking about our atoll and islands here in Southern Maldives.

Greg Stone: Saving the ocean one island at a time.

Some Background: Kiribati is an island nation in the central pacific, it like Maldives has many islands spread over a large area of ocean. The Phoenix islands are a group of sea mounts in the middle of this nation  with no inhabitants and 5 days by boat from the nearest airport. Until recently these islands were the largest marine reserve in the world. But in Greg Stones talk, he tells the tales of the flora and fauna before the marine reserve was set up.

Table corals at Hadahaa House reef.
 Photo credits:  ScubaZoo
Table coral Phoenix islands.
Photo credits: National Geographic
From his stories and imagery the only place in the world where I have visited that comes close to this is the coral reefs I have visited within this atoll (Huvadhoo). Having dived all over the world I am still amazed everyday when I jump in the water here to see such a healthy and diverse marine ecosystem. In fact research by the Marine Conservation Society UK and Reef Check found Hadahaa house reef to have the highest percentage coral cover out of all of the reefs surveyed during a nation wide exhibition in 2009. Surveys were carried out in six atolls stretching from Ha Dalluu in the north to Addu in the south.

The coral reefs in this atoll have flourished even though unlike the Phoenix islands these islands have been inhabited for almost 2,000 years. Not only have they been inhabited but commercial and subsidence fisheries have been on-going here for many years. These reefs also see the same threats that other coral reef ecosystems succumb to such as ocean acidification, rising sea temperatures, impact from tourism industry and population expansion.

So my question is: Why are these reefs so healthy?

Under the water villas at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa

1 comment:

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