The Living Oceans Foundation conducts coral reef research missions in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean as part of our Global Reef Expedition. Our scientists are working alongside researchers from the Ministry of Marine Resources, members of the Cook Islands Marine Park Steering Committee, and the Te Ipukarea Society. Together they are using satellite imagery and ground observations to identify and characterize the various marine habitats in order to create high resolution habitat maps.
Our researchers are also focusing on the health of these aquatic ecosystems, from the corals themselves to commercially important reef fishes and invertebrates. They will be recording the proportions of live and dead coral, as well as fish and coral diversity at coral reef research sites such as Raratonga, Aitutaki, and Palmerston Atoll. The team hopes to identify threats affecting these populations, as well as the extent of degradation and resilience to stressors such as ocean acidification and infestations of destructive crown of thorns starfish.
The tools developed from our coral reef research, such as high resolution habitat maps and an Atlas of Cook Islands reef systems, will be provided to government and non-government agencies and relevant stakeholders in the region with responsibilities for the management and conservation of marine habitats and French Polynesian coral reefs.