Coral reef networks help preserve fish species

Apo Island, the Philippines. Image: Shutterstock

Immigrating larvae are helping maintain the diversity of the reefs.

The Coral Triangle between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines is the richest marine environment on Earth. Researchers from James Cook University have established that the high diversity of this area is due to fish and coral larvae swept in from the Solomon Islands and the South China Sea.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Coral Triangle is home to one third of the world’s coral reefs and contains more than 3000 species of reef fish, such as the commercially vital yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna. It also contains over 600 species of reef building coral- 75 percent of all known coral species- as well as sea turtles, crustaceans, mollusks and marine plant species.

Dr Jonathan Kool from James Cook University stated in the press release that knowing where the coral spawn is coming from is vital to managing the reefs. “Even though coral reef communities may not be connected directly to one another, reefs on the edge of the Coral Triangle have the potential to contribute significant amounts of genetic diversity throughout the region.”

The prevailing direction for the ocean currents is east to west. According to Dr Kool “this carries coral spawn and fish larvae from areas such as round the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and the Solomons/Papua New Guinea.

“Maintaining the network of links between reefs allowing larvae to flow between them and re-stock depleted areas, is key to saving coral ecosystems threatened by human pressure and climate change.”

Six of the nations within the Coral Triangle- Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands and Timor Lest- are now working together on the Coral Triangle Initiative, which will strengthen the governance and management of the reefs. Dr Kool says “Nations need to co-operate to look after them ““ and that begins with recognising the resources are at risk and that collective action is needed to protect them.”

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