Hope for Kiritimati!
In July 2017 the Baum Lab team completed our 13th expedition to Kiritimati. Led by project manager Kristina Tietjen, the team documented signs of recovery and surveyed the fish.
This was the first time that the fish had been surveyed since the El Niño. The fish team, led by Sean Dimoff who was on the 2015 trip, counted 124,000 fish over the four week trip. From field observations Sean believes there has not been a decrease in the number of fish. We hope to have data analyzed soon to determine the effect the El Niño had on the fish population.
While most of the reefs looked as they did in November, mostly dead and the structure still mostly remaining, the reefs on the south west side of the island have become inundated by macroalgae. This may indicate a phase shift to a macroalgae dominated reef, but we have hope that between the high levels of herbivores and the return of corals that this will not occur.
This expedition also marked the first time that the coral recruitment tiles were sampled. All 240 tiles that were deployed in November 2016 were collected and analyzed. We photographed and collected 73 recruits and will be sequencing their DNA to ID each recruit to the lowest taxonomic level. While we only got 73 recruits on our tiles, it was not zero! Many more recruits and juvenile corals were observed on the reef giving us a reason to hope for the recovery of the reefs! 276 tiles were deployed and will be retrieved summer 2018 where we hope to see more recruits.
The team also collected data for the other long term projects and we are now focusing on processing and sequencing all of our samples from all of the field seasons that the lab conducted in the past few years. We are looking forward to sharing our results with you in the near future.
We will be conducting additional field seasons in the following summers to further document the recovery of Kiritimati's reefs.
Contact Julia (baum 'at' uvic.ca) or Kristina (kiritimatiprojectmanager 'at' gmail.com) for more information. For more information about our fieldwork on Kiritimati: kiritimati.weebly.com/
Follow us on Twitter: @baumlab and @tietjenk
Banner photo: A coral reef in the 'very low' local disturbance region at the beginning of the El Niño (July 2015; left panel) and two years later after the El Niño (July 2017; right panel). Kiritimati Island was on Alert Level 2 coral bleaching for 10 straight months and experienced 90% coral mortality, as evidenced in the July 2017 photo (right panel) where only a few living coral colonies remain. Photo Credit: Kieran Cox (left) and Kristina Tietjen (right)