A new study in the journal PLoS ONE has shown that the waters between Madagascar and mainland Africa, centred around the Northern section of the Mozambique channel, may be among the most diverse for coral species the entire world.
For nearly a decade, David Obura of the Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) has been running SCUBA surveys in the region. Through these surveys he has identified some 369 coral species, and there may be another 100 as yet unidentified. Furthermore, around 10 percent of these species are known only from the Indian Ocean. Although still less diverse than the Coral Triangle (which has over 600 species) this would make the region as biodiverse as the Great Barrier Reef.
“The [western Indian Ocean] region’s reefs have a unique heritage, and contain many unique and old lineages of corals found nowhere else on Earth,” Obura explains in a press release. “The evolutionary lineage of the Indian Ocean fauna predates the Southeast Asia and Coral Triangle fauna, inherited from earlier marine biodiversity hotspots of 20-50 million years ago.”
Unfortunately, in common with most other coral reefs, the region faces local pressures such as population growth, overfishing, fossil fuel exploitation, mining, and tourism…. and of course climate change and ocean acidification are also significant threats.