Dataset: Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) of coral biodiversity and reef health in the Banda Islands, Maluku, eastern Indonesia


In 2002, the fringing reefs at eighteen locations around the six major islands and associated islets in the Banda Islands were surveyed. At each site, the reef was assessed by taking an inventory of scleractinian coral species, habitat characteristics and reef health over sections of reef from 100 to 300m in length. Fifteen of the eighteen sites were sampled at two depths: shallow (surface to 8-10m) and deep (>12m, maximum to 50m). \n \nAn inventory of scleractinian coral species was compiled per site, and each species assigned a relative abundance score. Where in situ identification of coral species was not possible, notes and digital images were taken and samples collected, to consult with references. When necessary, small coral samples were collected, labelled and taken to Australia for identification. \n \nA series of site characteristics were noted in a semi-quantitative manner. These were depth range, slope, bottom cover of the major benthic groups, physical structure, reef development level, exposure rating and visibility. \n \nVisual estimates were also made of the percent cover of benthos in the following biotic categories: hard coral, soft coral, macroalgae, turf algae, coralline algae and dead coral. \n \nReef health was determined by assessing the severity of the damage a reef had incurred due to the following factors: anchor damage, silt from the land, blast fishing, coral disease, coral predators (the gastropod snail, Drupella sp. and the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci) and coral bleaching. Damage was rated on a five point scale from 0 (not seen ) to 4 (serious damage). The relative contribution of each factor to the total damage observed was also recorded.\n The objectives of this component of the REA survey were: \n1. to survey the coral reefs of the Banda archipelago, to obtain an index of the coral biodiversity in the area \n2. to assess the health of the coral reefs, giving special attention to human impacts\n The Nature Conservancy was commissioned to undertake this research by UNESCO. The overall objectives of the Rapid Ecological Assessment were: \n1. to assess the status of coastal and marine biodiversity, focusing on corals, fish, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other marine biota \n2. to identify areas in the Banda archipelago that would be eligible for a site conservation program considering the present biodiversity status, the status of the threats to biodiversity, and the likelihood of conservation success. \n3. to help in assessing whether Banda is a candidate for designation as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site.\n

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