- Comparing them can tell us about human impacts
- Pristine reefs tell us what is possible
- Somewhere in between provides greatest yields
- Pristine reefs are the instruction manual for conservation
Dispatches from Kingman Reef: Expedition to Kingman
Join Scripps researcher Enric Sala and Stuart Sandin and National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry on the first of three expeditions to explore and document the uninhabited coral reef atolls of the Line Islands, one of the most remote places in the ocean. Read the most recent post
ABOUT THE EXPEDITION
There are almost no pristine/nearly pristine coral reefs in the world. Former reefs full of sharks, large fishes, sea turtles, and healthy corals are all but gone. Impacts such as chronic over-fishing, pollution, climate change, and disease have deteriorated reefs. One of the major problems for the conservation of coral reefs is that we seldom have ecological baselines against which to compare present reefs. Such quantitative baselines can reveal the ecological characteristics that have been lost and potentially can guide us toward strategies to restore degraded reefs. To supply the ecological baseline, we are conducting a thorough study of the ecosystems of two of the most pristine coral reefs remaining, those surrounding Palmyra atoll and Kingman reef in the Line Islands.
With a diverse team of reef ecologists, we will describe the diversity and structure of the reef communities, sampling all major taxonomic groups, including the microbes, algae, corals, other invertebrates, and fish. In order to quantify the effects of human disturbance on coral reef ecosystems, we will conduct comparable surveys on three inhabited islands of the Line Islands archipelago, Teraina, Tabuaeran, and Kiritimati. This survey will offer a unique view into the groups of organisms that are lost, the species interactions that are altered, and the trophic dynamics that are changed as humans disturb a reef. This study will be the first to control for biogeographic differences among sites, to include broad taxonomic sampling, and to include pristine/nearly pristine reef sites into analyses of human impacts on coral reefs.
August: Scientists arrive on Kiritimati (Christmas) by plane 2-8 August: develop protocols and sample Kiritimati 10-14 August: sample Tabuaeran 16-24 August: sample Palmyra (with some short-term lab-based experiments) 26-30 August: sample Teraina 1-5 September: sample Kingman �6 September: Scientists depart from Palmyra on plane
WHY DO WE NEED TO STUDY REEFS FROM DEGRADED TO PRISTINE?
LINE ISLANDS EXPEDITION GOALS