15 January 2016

Seychelles: Hunt for Rare Coral in Seychelles Finds the Pearl Bubble Coral

Victoria, Seychelles — Finding the most threatened coral in Seychelles proved to be a difficult task for Sylvanna Antha and her team at the Seychelles National Parks Authority.

Five types of coral found in the Indian Ocean islands have been listed as in danger of extinction by the Zoological Society of London under the EDGE - Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered - programme.

During a two-year study of Seychelles' coral, Antha's team was able to locate the pearl bubble coral - scientific name Physogyra lichtensteini. But it was not able to find the other species.

Seychelles' 93,000 inhabitants are heavily dependent on marine life. Antha's study highlighted the presence of high sedimentation around inhabited islands of Seychelles as a hindrance to the growth of these already vulnerable corals, a possible blow to the growth of coral so-loved by recreational divers.

"Further work needs to be carried out to understand the extent of sediment and turbidity on pearl bubble coral and how much of an impact these have on EDGE corals, in light of changes in climate and anthropogenic impacts," said Antha.

Previous studies have shown that both temperature and sedimentation could have a great impact on the recruitment or growth of new corals. Out of the five endangered coral, three were identified for further studies under the EDGE programme.

"EDGE species are the world's 'irreplaceable, threatened species'. This means that they have very few close relatives, are distinct and look different from other species," says EDGE fellow, Antha in an e-mail to SNA.

Antha, who is currently a master's student in conservation leadership at the University of Cambridge, hopes the programme continues by extending the search to outer islands for the elegance coral (Catalaphyllia jardinei) and the pineapple coral (Parasimplastrea sheppardi).

Antha's research project, which started in January 2012 and ended in December 2013, carried out mapping of threatened corals in the Seychelles inner islands.

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