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First Biodiversity Census of coral reef ecosystems in the NW Hawaiian Islands

As part of the international Census of Marine Life (CoML), a team of world renown scientists will embark on an expedition to explore coral reef biodiversity in the largest fully protected marine area in the world--the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. Led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, with funding from NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this 23-day research cruise to the Monument's French Frigate Shoals will be the first in a series of surveys by CoML's Census of Coral Reef Ecosystems (CReefs) project. The CoML projects are designed to assess the diversity, distribution and abundance of ocean life and explain how it changes over time. This CReefs project will provide needed baseline information and foster understanding of coral reef ecosystems globally. The cruise will take place on the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette and depart from Honolulu's Snug Harbor on Friday, October 6th.

According to NOAA's Dr. Russell Brainard, chief scientist for the expedition, this pioneering effort is unprecedented in the level of taxonomic expertise. While annual reef assessment and monitoring program surveys are conducted throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), those surveys have been forced to focus on the larger and better understood fish, corals, macroalgae and macroinvertebrates (lobsters, large crabs, sea urchins). This expedition is unique in focusing primarily on the more cryptic small invertebrates (tiny crabs, mollusks, sea slugs, worms and more), algae, and microbes over a range of habitats at French Frigate Shoals. Although some of these smaller organisms may not be as charismatic as monk seals, or colorful aquarium fish (until you look under a microscope), they form the complex tapestry that supports the existence of the larger animals, and changes in their abundance or diversity are often the first indicators of
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Contact: Megan Moews
megan.moews@noaa.gov
808-983-3745
Census of Marine Life
10-Oct-2006


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