Our first coral reef research site was by the island of Marchena. Old black lava blankets the land and flows down beneath the waves. Underwater, the porous lava and a few species of branching coral create a complex habitat for large numbers of fish. The coral communities around the Galapagos contain only 21 species of coral.
While there might not be a high diversity of corals, there is certainly a lot of life in these coral environments. One of the main contributing factors to the abundance of life around the Galapagos is the upwelling of deep nutrient rich waters. These nutrient rich waters stimulate the growth of phytoplankton which is the foundation for this extremely abundant ecosystem. Up around the islands of Darwin and Wolf (where we will be shortly) there are large schools of fish, hammerhead sharks and whale sharks which come to feed in the nutrient rich waters.
There is only one small area around Marchena that has an abundant coral community so only one day of work was required. The conditions underwater were good and the amount of information that was collected was impressive. The 14 scientific divers collected coral surveys, benthic surveys, fish surveys, coral genetic samples, coral growth and density samples, and long term coral monitoring data! We hope to be as productive when we hit Wolf Island.
(Photos by: 1 Alison Barrat, 2-4 Brian Beck)
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