Original Article: Link
June 6, 2016
Indian Ocean Expedition: Survey 2
The Maldives is an island nation made up of 28 atolls with 1190 islands. It is spread over 90,000 square kilometres, making it one of the world’s most dispersed countries.
Tourism and diving industries are a huge part of the economy here, highly dependent on healthy coral reefs and a clean ocean environment. However, the Maldives is at danger from sea level rise. With an average land elevation of only 1.5 metres, it is one of the lowest lying countries on earth.
This will be our most complex scientific expedition yet. We have a large and diverse group on board, consisting of the Shallow Reef Team, fish experts, Deep Reef Team, and guest members of the Maldivian Marine Research Centre and IUCN’s Project Regenerate.
Localized Threats to Coral Reefs in the Maldives
Whilst aboard the MV Emperor Voyager in the Maldives, the Catlin Seaview Survey team assessed the condition of coral reefs across human impact gradients. There are many different threats to coral reefs ranging from global-scale overarching threats like climate change to localized impacts such as pollution and Crown-of-Thorns Seastars (COTS) outbreaks. Many of these threats may not cause outright mortality like a mass-bleaching event, but can greatly decrease the health of coral reefs. Corals are animals and, like people, have immune systems and fight off infections on a regular basis. Just like a population living in a city with low air quality might have higher incidences of asthma, corals living in degraded environments can also be more susceptible to infections
Algae on the reef: Gauging reef health by overlooked species
As I sit down to write on Day 9 of the expanded scientific Catlin Seaview Survey expedition, I honestly don’t know where to start, as we have had such a remarkable time in this country.
When not watching manta rays twirl up an imaginary spiral staircase from the depths, or admiring the flattest waters I have ever seen where the sky dissolves into the ocean, the Catlin Ocean Scholars have been afforded a unique and valuable opportunity to complete supplementary field for our PhD candidacies at The University of Queensland.
Exploring the Effect of Development on Coral Reefs
I first visited the Maldives with my family in 1997 as a newly certified SCUBA diver ready to explore the underwater environment and I was amazed by the huge amounts of fish life and vivid colors of the reef. The news of the 1998 bleaching event in the country, causing mass mortality of corals, triggered me to pursue a career in marine biology and conservation and it is therefore a great privilege to be involved with bringing the Catlin Seaview Survey to the Maldives to survey this coral reef nation.