Corals and Conservation

As coral reefs are declining worldwide, Academy scientists recently attended an international symposium in Bali to focus on these critical marine ecosystems and to help formulate global conservation strategies.

Coral reefs, the most diverse and productive marine habitat on Earth, support an immense variety of animals, from sponges and nudibranchs (sea slugs) to carnivorous fishes and corals. But today, destructive fishing practices, pollution, and rising ocean temperatures are destroying these vital communities, spurring international efforts to protect them.

Before conservation measures can be taken, however, scientists must have a clear picture of reef ecology. Academy Provost Terry Gosliner and Curator/coral reef biologist Gary Williams recently visited the waters of Bali, Indonesia, to assess reef health and survey biodiversity.

Bali falls within the "High Diversity Triangle," an area formed by the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia known to have the highest diversity of marine life in the world. Gosliner and Williams discovered several new species of invertebrates and established new records of others. In some areas, they found that a common fishing practice-using dynamite to stun fish-not only killed corals, but depleted reefs of other forms of life.

Using this region and others as models, researchers hope to find patterns of species diversity indicative of pristine or unhealthy reefs to help develop global conservation strategies.

image of diver on coral reef
Research and collection on the coral reef
Photo copyright: G. Williams
map of Bali area











image of rice fields
Rice paddies in rural Bali
Photo:T. Gosliner






image of sea slug
A new species of Hypselodoris discovered at Tulamben, Bali at a depth of 6 meters (20 feet)
Photo copyright: T. Gosliner