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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

RAPID BIODIVERSITY ASSESSMENT for Mur Village, Rai Coast District, Madang, Papua New Guinea





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By Annisah Sapul and Gerard Uma Meta for Mas Kagin Tapani Association Inc. (MAKATA)

  
Introduction
The community of MURR is located in the Rai Coast area of Madang Province. It is just 30 minutes to the border of Morobe Province. The request to undergo management of their resources by the local people has prompted them to request MAKATA Inc, to facilitate the process to enable effective management of their marine resource.

To enable communities to make informed decisions on prioritizing areas to manage, information on species diversity within habitats is required. A rapid biodiversity assessment was conducted to establish baseline information of fish diversity for a particular area of coral reef habitat.
This report gives information of the relative biodiversity of the coral reefs that traditional are owned by the Mur Community, by using a rapid biodiversity assessment describing the coral reef fish diversity and reef structure. The assessment was conducted within two areas belonging to two separate clans in the community.

Survey sites (Insert Map)
Name of Site
Location
Mot reef
S  , 5,38'44',E,146'30'59'

Krangah reef
S 05 39'17" E 146 31'39"

Methods

An assessment of the habitat within the Dawang and Murr Clans area were recorded and described.
A buddy team of two scuba divers conducted rapid underwater observations to a maximum depth of 30m . The methods are described on Allen & Warner (2002)1 for establishing fish diversity and a rapid visual assessment of substrate composition. Diver one recorded fish species to family level and special attention was given to vulnerable species. Diver two would record general substrate types; hard coral, soft coral, coral rubble, sand, coralline algae, macro algae and dead coral. Each category was assigned a ranking of high (>40% total cover) medium (10-40% total cover) or low (<10% total cover) Only the names of fishes for which identification was absolutely certain were recorded.
The technique involved a rapid descent to 30m and then a slow, zigzag path was traversed on the ascent back to the shallows. The majority of time was spent in the 2–12m depth zone, which consistently harbors the largest number of fish species.

Results

Description of habitat

Murr Community marine area comprises of black sandy beaches, with very high exposure to open ocean currents and strong winds. The beaches are home to the legendary leatherback turtle. The area has a fringing reef system and patch reefs which drop off to at least 40m. 

Description of fish diversity

During the rapid Biodiverity Assesment 294 fish species were recorded during the first dive and on the second dive 400 were recorded. There was  a high diversity amongst group of fish which  indicated a very good coral health.There was a high number of surgeon fish (acanthuridae),which comprises of whitefin surgeonfish (acathurus albipectoralis), Indo-Pacific Bluetang surgeonfish (Paracanthurus hepatatus) these two were high in abundance.
Table 1. Visual counts of fish families
Species
Site 1
Site 2
Acanthuridae
60
95
Balisitdae
17
7
Caesionidae
0
0
Chaetodontidae
35
20
Haemulidae
1
0
Kyphosidae
5
6
Labridae
15
20
Lethrinidae
8
3
Lutjanidae
8
8
Mullidae
10
22
Nemipteridae
5
0
Pomacanthidae
20
9
Pomacentridae
50
70
Scaridae
0
70
Scombridae
0
2
Serranidae
10
10
Aulostomidae
0
0
Cirrhitidae
1
0
Carangidae
0
3
Synodontidae
0
0
Anthiinae
40
10
Siganidae
2
2
Holocentridae
7
35
Apogonidae
0
8
Pseudochromidae
0
0
ptereleothyidae
0
0
Gobidae
0
0
Blennidae
0
0
TOTAL PER SITE:
294
400

 In site one three Triadcna  gigas one spotted on estimated to be 1 metre in length. A Maori Wrasse which is listed as endangered was identified there as well. In site two there was also a large school of Bumphead parrotfish (Bulbo) with at least 40 + individuals, a reef shark was also spotted with a green turtle.


(Apology: We cannot upload the photos here, but we do have the photos in the original document)

Figures Top left to right: The most abundant species of surgeonfish observed were Indo-Pacific Bluetang surgeonfish (Paracanthurus hepatatus), and whitefin surgeonfish (acathurus albipectoralis)
Also observed were these species that are listed as bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) and the Maori Wrasse (Chelinus Undulatus)  both listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.

Description of substrate cover


The two sites are very different in composition; site  one was a patch reef having a High percentage of coral rubble, medium level of hard corals and coralline algae, and very low abundance of soft coral. It is has a slope at 20m leading to steep drop off.
The second site had a high level of hard corals and coral rubble, with low soft coral.  The reef was a fringing reef. In both reef systems there was a high level of new hard coral recruitments and majority of acropora tabular.
Table 2: Visual estimates of substrate cover at two sites
Substrate
Site 1
Site 2
Hard coral
Medium
High
soft coral
Low
Low
Coral rubble
Medium
Medium
sand
Medium
Low
coralline algae
Medium
Low
macro-algae
Medium
Medium
Dead coral
Medium
Medium



Discussion


The reef of Mur community is in good health and it supports a diverse number of fish.  There is a large number of surgeonfish found at both sites. Papua New Guinea is one of the mega diverse countries that supports more than 1000 species of reef fish and the community of Mur is no exception.
Both sites showed high abundance of new hard corals settlement mostly of acropora tabular. Both sites show good health and recruitment of new coral settlement.  There are areas around 1-3m that show sand and alot of rubble indicating strong wave action in site 1.  However the site indicates good coral recovery and recruitment for healthy reef in the long term.

Recommendations

The study was limited to only two sites because of time restriction; the communities have requested to verify breeding areas for species of groupers in order to protect these sites during spawning times as part of their management strategies. This is proposed to happen when there is available funding and when it is breeding times for the species. 
Also as time progresses long term monitoring is recommended to be set up to inform local communities of the changes happening in their reef system. A local team needs to be set up to carry out this important task, meaning training and capacity building in Scuba diving and reef monitoring techniques. All this will contribute to the effective management of the local marine area.

References

(1)     Allen, G. R. (2008), Conservation hotspots of biodiversity and endemism for Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes. Aquatic Conserv: Mar. Freshw. Ecosyst., 18: 541–556.  
(2)     Fishbase.org
(3)     www.divegallery.com

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