Halmahera Expedition, 13 April – 11 May 2008
A team of top marine scientists is embarking on a month-long journey to uncharted waters on the outer edge of the Coral Triangle, a region renowned for its incredible marine biodiversity. Reefs here harbor an astounding 76 percent of the world's coral species. The expedition will be leaving aboard the Seven Seas on April 12th 2008, returning a month later, on May 12th after circumnavigating the main island and adjoining islets.
What they will find during this expedition may well be the richest treasure trove of marine life on Earth. "We call the Coral Triangle the 'epicenter of coral reef diversity'," says Dr. Rod Salm, director of the Conservancy's Tropical Marine Conservation Program in the Asia Pacific Region. "This could be the epicenter of the epicenter."
The expedition, which is co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International (CI), includes 16 experts from these organizations as well as Indonesian partners and the World Wildlife Fund. These web pages contain information and discoveries from the expedition, and allow you to follow the team as it explores this paradise on Earth. Select "Blog" to read the exciting notes from the expedition members.
The Halmahera area is in the province of North Maluku, nestled between the islands of Papua and Sulawesi in Indonesia. It stretches over an area of 24,500 km2 that includes the main island as well as the surrounding small islands. Oceanographically and bio-geographically, Halmahera lies in a region that is on the western border of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and at the northeastern "entrance" of the Indonesian throughflow from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. Due to its location, complex coastline, and proximity to the Halmahera Eddy and Equatorial Currents, it is likely to be a critical source of seed for corals and fishes connecting the Coral Triangle with Micronesia.
"It's highly likely that we'll discover species never before documented by science," says Salm. "That's an incredibly exciting prospect. But the expedition is about much more than that." The group's ambitious charter is to build a data picture of the island's marine habitats, the species that rely on them and the threats they face.
Halmahera's relatively isolated reefs and strategic location within the Coral Triangle could give the area additional value for biodiversity. As reefs more exposed to human stress and less resilient to climate change bleach and die, the reefs on Halmahera could be a source of new larvae that would allow recovery. This expedition is also about creating management for reefs playing a key role in the Coral Triangle’s resilience strategy.