A two-week survey in one of the most beautiful places on Earth may have turned up more than good news: It also might have discovered nine brand-new species.
The expedition, convened by Conservation International (CI), recently took place in the waters surrounding Bali Island in Indonesia. Among the finds: eight species of fish, and one species of coral, potentially never before described by science.
Scientists also uncovered evidence that the area’s abundant coral reefs — so critical to the health and well-being of millions — are, despite ongoing challenges, recovering from past ills. That’s wonderful news for the people who rely on Bali’s seas for their food, their jobs and their well-being.
‘A tremendous variety of habitats’
The survey in Bali, an island of more than 3 million that is renowned around the world for its culture and its natural beauty, took place under the banner of CI’s long-running Rapid Assessment Program (RAP). The goal was to assess the health of the area’s reefs in the hopes of figuring out how best to develop a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in one of Earth’s most diverse ocean ecosystems.
The results, according to Dr. Mark Erdmann, senior adviser for the CI-Indonesia marine program: “There was a tremendous variety of habitats, surprisingly high levels of diversity, and the coral reefs appeared to be in an active stage of recovery from bleaching, destructive fishing and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks in the 1990s.”
Not to mention all the potentially new species: two types of cardinalfish, two varieties of dottybacks, a garden eel, a sand perch, a fang blenny, a new species of goby and a previously unknown Euphyllia bubble coral!
Overall, scientists on two recent RAPs to Bali documented 953 species of reef fish and 397 species of coral — a breathtaking abundance of life.
Cause for celebration
It isn’t quite right to say that Bali is free from environmental concerns. Despite the presence of hundreds of species in the area’s reefs, scientists discovered that some commercially important species were severely depleted. Those on the expedition also noted that plastic pollution was “omnipresent” and that fishers have encroached on no-take zones meant to boost the number of fish in the region.
That, scientists say, threatens the food security of the millions who call Bali home. It also puts at risk many fishers whose families have lived on the sea for generations — not to mention the tourism industry, which is fundamental to Bali’s economy.
But the recent improvement in Bali’s reefs remains a cause for celebration — not just for the island’s residents, but for all of us who value the world’s most amazing places.
To read more about the RAP in Bali, click here.