Eka Fibayani Imaniar, a fourth-year undergraduate student, harvests seagrasses at Sindhu Beach, Bali under the supervision of I Made Pharmawati, left (Photo courtesy Dr. Pharmawati).
Indonesia has almost 80,000 km of coastline surrounded by human development; almost 50 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million inhabitants rely heavily on coastal areas for their livelihood and as source of protein. More than 60 percent of the population’s protein intake is derived from fish and other ocean-related products. Despite an increasing conservation focus throughout Indonesia, coastal environmental degradation is still growing exponentially and fisheries are still not properly managed. Addressing degradation of key coastal habitats and achieving proper fisheries management are essential in reducing pressures on marine ecosystems and threats to coral reef fish. This project has two primary focus areas. The first is coastal sea grass, a coastal ecosystem that receives little attention but is a critical nursery ground for economically important coastal fisheries. The second is humphead wrasse fisheries, the habitats of an extremely valuable reef fish that is being rapidly depleted throughout Indonesia and the Coral Triangle.
Using genetic methods, the researchers will describe sea grass genetic diversity throughout Indonesia and identify those regions of the country most susceptible to environmental threats, including climate change. The result will be useful in helping marine managers determine which areas need to be prioritized for conservation efforts. The scientists will also investigate humphead wrasse fisheries in western Indonesia, supplementing fisheries data with information on habitat community connectivity and parentage analysis that could aid the Indonesian government in effectively managing these fisheries. This information is particularly important in assuring that the fisheries activities sustainable while at the same time assuring a reliable basis for livelihoods in this area. While many universities and research institutions have started using genetics techniques, Indonesian research capacity in genetics is still relatively small. A key goal of this project is to promote genetic methods, which will provide significant training opportunities to the broader Indonesian scientific community by involving more than 10 universities across the country. By increasing their technical capabilities, Indonesian scientists will be able to increase their involvement in the global scientific community. Thus, this project should help to advance the Indonesian science community while producing scientifically reliable data that will promote the better management of marine environments by conservationists.
Summary of Recent Activities
Study activities began with the collection of more than 100 fin clip samples from Napoleon wrasse from Java and Sumatra. These fish, also known as humphead wrasse, are being rapidly depleted throughout Indonesia. Survey activities were also conducted on seagrass, and nine species were sampled from three beaches in southern Bali in order to identify them and determine their phylogeny. The PI and students from the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center and Universitas Udayana were involved in DNA extraction from the samples and the DNA amplification process in the lab. U.S. co-partner Paul Barber's lab at UCLA has been overseeing the initial sample analysis using next generation sampling methods.
Future plans include the publication of initial results of sample analysis, which is expected at the beginning of March 2014. The team expects to collect samples from Karimunjawa in central Java. In addition, they are preparing to participate in the inaugural national workshop on seagrass genetic diversity. The workshop, scheduled for early February 2014, is to involve seven local universities. The intense schedule combining fieldwork and labwork is aimed at helping participants to increase their technical capabilities.