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The National Academies
500 5th St NW - KWS 502
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202) 334-2800
Fax: (202) 334-2139
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)
Marine biodiversity of Raja Ampat Islands: The ARMS, morphology, and genetic approaches for inventorying and monitoring patterns of marine biodiversity
PI: Abdul-Hamid Toha, State University of Papua
U.S. Partner: Kent Carpenter, Old Dominion University
Project Dates: June 2012 - May 2014
Dr. Toha and students from his September 2012 Workshop on Biodiversity, Molecular Ecology and Genetic Conservation, photo courtesy of Dr. Toha.
Raja Ampat, a remote archipelago of small islands and cays off New Guinea, has gained international scientific attention due to its high marine biodiversity and the discovery of multiple new species of corals and fish. The high levels of marine biodiversity in this region are an important part of Indonesia's natural heritage and global biodiversity. However, our understanding the processes responsible for shaping biodiversity patterns in this region are still lacking. The goals of this project are to describe the richness, study the status, and explain the spatial and temporal patterns in the biodiversity of Raja Ampat. Interest in these goals has gained momentum due to escalating anthropogenic impacts and the need to conserve resources in important hotspots of endemic species. This study employs a novel tool, Automated Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS), to monitor marine biodiversity gradients across the Raja Ampat Islands in a standardized, highly efficient, and statistically robust way. Analyses based on DNA barcoding and metagenomics will show (1) whether visual surveys of conspicuous groups like fish and corals (the subjects of traditional surveys) can reliably capture biodiversity patterns for inconspicuous groups (smaller invertebrates, algae, and microbes) that actually comprise the vast majority of marine biodiversity, and (2) whether marine biodiversity varies predictably as a function of conservation management strategy (e.g., Marine Protected Areas).
The results of the project should dramatically improve our understanding of the contemporary processes shaping the distribution of marine biodiversity in the Raja Ampat, providing a scientific foundation to support the sustainability goals of the Papua and Indonesia in general. To reach these goals, the study builds on strong partnerships with UCLA developed as part of a previous NSF PIRE award
. This project will also build linkages with Brawijaya University, the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center, the Indonesian Institute of Science, and conservation organizations to provide the intellectual and physical resources to achieve the research aims as well as ensure that these results support conservation planning and the sustainability goals of the Coral Triangle Initiative.
Summary of Recent Activities
During the third quarter of 2013 Dr.Toha and his team analyzed the morphology of invertebrate samples collected from Raja Ampat, and 69 invertebrate species have been identified. A total of 42 autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) were deployed in both Raja Ampat and Cenderawasih Bay September 7-19, 2013. In addition to research, education and outreach events have been ongoing. A public outreach event on coral reef rehabilitation, spearheaded as result of collaboration between student groups at the State University of Papua (UNIPA), was held May 29, 2013. Participants were introduced to the various types of corals, and the level of their destruction in Lemon Island was outlined. Another training event, titled “Handling Whale Shark Specimens,” was held August 21-25, 2013. During the session, Cenderawasih Bay whale shark (Rhinocodon typus
) tissue samples were analyzed and DNA analysis techniques using mtDNA and microsatellite markers were shared with the participants, who included faculty, students, and representatives from various institutions. This training, held at UNIPA in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, the Forestry Department of Indonesia (BTNTC), and Bogor Agriculture University, also initiated the development of cooperation and design of genetic studies in Cenderawasih Bay. A general lecture on “Marine Lake Ecology in Indonesia” was also held at UNIPA September 24, 2013. Lisa Becking, a visiting scientist from University of California, Berkeley, presented the lecture, as a result of which, further collaborative research in Raja Ampat is also being planned. Dr. Toha’s team initiated collaboration with WWF-Indonesia in Cenderawasih Bay region, BTNTC, and also with Conservation International-Indonesia, the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center, and several institutions in Raja Ampat. Three new undergraduates of Brawijaya University were also recruited to partake in Dr. Toha’s research. Going forward, Dr. Toha’s team is planning to organize a phylogenetic analysis training session for UNIPA students and faculty. A general lecture on conservation practices in Marine Protected Areas in the Papua region is also being planned.
Dr. Toha continues publication of his group’s monthly newsletter “Raja Ampat Biodiversity Conservation” (www.ibcraja4.org
); and their book titled Biodiversity and Conservation of Sea Urchin
has also been published by Galaksi Sains, Malang.
Coral rehabilitation in Lemon Island,
September 2013 (Photo courtesy Hamid Toha).
Reed media being readied for deployment at
Lemon Island, September 2013 (Photo courtesy Hamid Toha).