In January 2015, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation embarked on a research mission to Palau. As part of the Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition, this research mission conducted standardized surveys of coral reefs and reef fish in many locations across Palau, including the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our core science team was joined by representatives from the Palau International Coral Research Center (PICRC), the Coral Reef Research Foundation, and the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP)

Palau on the globe
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons*


On this research mission, we collected detailed information about the health and state of the reefs. The team of scientists conducted hundreds of benthic and reef fish surveys, focusing on commercially important reef fishes and invertebrates, such as groupers, sea cucumbers, and crustaceans. The scientists also noted the health of these reef communities and any stressors that could affect them, like the coral-eating Crown of Thorns Seastars, coral diseases, or ocean acidification. In addition, the scientists assessed the damage caused in 2013 by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Palau’s Rock Islands

On this research mission, we put special emphasis on collecting images of some of these threats to coral reefs as well as documenting life on the reef. Keith Ellenbogen, a photographer with iLCP, joined us for the Global Reef Expedition’s mission to Palau and shares his best photos and tales of his adventure in an article in National Geographic Voices.

Our research, based on extensive underwater surveys, found Palau’s reefs had the highest live coral cover of all the reefs studied on the Living Ocean Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition. Overall, Palau’s reefs were in very good condition, but even here, where so much has been done to conserve Palau’s marine ecosystems, signs of overfishing were observed on nearshore reefs, particularly those near population centers.

The Global Reef Expedition: The Republic of Palau Final Report summarizes the foundation’s research on the status of coral reefs and reef fish in Palau and provides conservation recommendations that can help preserve these outstanding coral reefs for generations to come. It has been shared with local communities, government and non-government agencies, and relevant stakeholders in the region. This information can directly help with the ongoing management and conservation efforts to protect, preserve, and restore Palau’s coral reefs.


Global Reef Expedition: The Kingdom of Palau Final Report

The Global Reef Expedition: The Republic of Palau Final Report presents the Foundation’s findings from the Global Reef Expedition mission to Palau in 2015, along with recommendations that can help preserve the reefs into the future.


Global Reef Expedition Final Report: Palau (4 MB PDF)


Meet the team


* By TUBS [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons