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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
US 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
Training for students about Molecular Genetic Basics (DNA Technology for Conservation), held at UNIPA, The State University of Papua.
The fieldwork for which students were trained in December 2012 proceeded as planned in January and February 2013. Samples of 35 invertebrate species were collected in various areas in the Raja Ampat Islands. One sample has already been analyzed and the results are being prepared for publication, while analysis of the others is ongoing. On the training side of the project, Dr. Toha held a two-day workshop April 11-12 for 17 students from several departments at his university. The goals of the training were to help the students learn to identify specimens based on genetic analysis and to enhance their awareness and understanding of issues related to biodiversity conservation. Relevant lab equipment and techniques were introduced as well. Because most of the participants were senior-level students in the process of planning their thesis research, the training should be especially timely and useful. Meanwhile, the Automated Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) have been purchased but not yet installed in the waters off the Raja Ampat Islands. The system should be deployed when the U.S. partner and his students visit for fieldwork in May 2013. Copies of this group’s monthly newsletters, additional information about their work, and photos of the areas being studied are available at http://www.ibcraja4.org
. Dr. Toha’s plans also include posting new publications on his group's results on this site and designing a database regarding the invertebrate samples collected.
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