KOLONIA, Pohnpei - A team of local and international experts have started a survey of Pohnpei's coral reefs, fish and seagrass beds that will run until October. This is the first comprehensive study of its kind in the Federated States of Micronesia.
"The survey team will search for any special animals or habitats in Pohnpei that we need to be sure to protect and conserve," says Mr Willy Kostka of the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, who is leading the survey. "This information is vital for government agencies, non-government organisations and communities to assist conservation efforts and better manage these critical resources."
"The survey can also be a model for other Micronesian states that want to better conserve their underwater life," said Mr Kostka.
Coral specialists Mr Emre Turak from France and Dr Lyndon DeVantier from Australia, began assessing the health of Pohnpei's reefs and looking for new coral species on June 28. They will continue their work until July 16.
In the first days of the survey, Turak and DeVantier have already found corals growing like they have not seen anywhere else, with Porites corals growing in columns that they estimated to be several hundred years old. They have also found coral species growing outside their known range.
Emre Turak is an experienced coral ecologist who specialises in rapid assessments of coral reefs. He will assess the status and health of the coral communities. Turak has undertaken assessments in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Australia.
Dr DeVantier has extensive experience in biodiversity and ecological assessment. He is a world leader in developing monitoring and survey techniques for coral reefs. He has worked extensively on reefs in Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Red Sea, Yemen as well as Australia.
|Mr Turak and Dr DeVantier will be followed by Dr Gerry Allen from the Western Australian Museum who will visit Pohnpei in August to survey reef fishes. Mr Len McKenzie from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries will survey the seagrass beds of Pohnpei in October. These visitors will complement work by a local team who will survey commercially important species. Dr Louise Goggin from the Cooperative Research Centre for the Great Barrier Reef (CRC Reef) is helping the team with communication. The team have extensive experience in assessments throughout the Indo-Pacific region and recently completed a similar survey of marine life in the Solomon Islands.
The survey is a cooperative project by the Pohnpei Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Department of Economic Affairs - Division of Marine Development, Conservation Society of Pohnpei, The Nature Conservancy and Australian scientific institutions including the Western Australian Museum, CRC Reef and Queensland Dept of Primary Industries & Fisheries. The survey is funded by Packard Foundation and the United States Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs.