May 2013 Update - Preserving a reef! How would you even start? Part II

In our April update we started taking a look at some of the different aspects involved in our efforts to monitor and preserve the coral reef around Naitauba Island. This month we are continuing our glimpse "behind-the-scenes":

We’ve worked out a simple system for labeling and archiving our photos, and have started a fish identification archive to document the fish species that we are able to photograph and identify.

The following are a few samples:



We’ve identified well over 100 fish species from our photographs, including 17 species of butterfly fish, but we have almost as many in our “unidentified” folder, and we know that we’ve only photographed a fraction of the species that are out there. There’s a lot more to be done!

All the while, we are on the lookout for potential dangers to the reef. In recent months, we have seen a great deal that is positive, but also some reminders of potential dangers, too.

The news this year is good. For the 11th consecutive year, the ocean temperatures in the waters around Naitauba have remained below the levels that would cause large-scale coral bleaching. The reef has had another year to re-build. However, under the intense sun of our Southern Hemisphere summers, the waters in Naitauba’s lagoon can get very warm.

This year, during the sunniest periods, we began to see the beginnings of localized bleaching in shallow water branching corals. Patches of bleached coral are shown in this photo from January 20th, 2013:


Close-up photo of bleached coral branches:

This portion of the reef was clearly under stress during the warmer months. We want to watch this part of the reef to see how it does when cooler water temperatures return in the coming time. Will it be able to fully recover?
We can see the importance of measuring and tracking the water temperatures on the reef in understanding how our reef is responding to the changing conditions that unfold day by day and year by year.