Madagascar reefs escape damage

Researchers from Conservation International (CI), a leading conservation group, found that the region’s coral reefs have avoided the bleaching that has affected other Indian Ocean reefs.

The scientists believe that cool water currents from adjacent deep ocean areas have helped offset the warming effects of climate change.

The study comes as scientists are increasingly concerned for the long-term propects of coral reef ecosystems.

Several studies have recently warned that the world’s coral reefs face a grim future should global temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide continue to rise.

Higher ocean temperatures will produce increasingly severe bleaching events, while elevated levels of carbon dioxide could further acidify the world’s seas.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, head of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Studies, believes that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — the world’s largest reef — could lose 95 percent of its living coral by 2050 should ocean temperatures increase by the 1.5 degrees Celsius projected by climate scientists.

Nevertheless, after conducting two Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expeditions, the CI team found some signs indicating Madagascar’s marine ecosystems are healthy.

The scientists recorded the highest coral diversity of the western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and documented 18 species of fish never before seen in the waters off Madagascar, including one believed new to science.

The survey suggests the region one of the richest in Indian Ocean marine biodiversity, with 829 species of fish now known from Malagasy waters.