13 New Corals Found In Gulf Of Mannar, M&C, 03/12/07
Source: Monsters & Critics
CHENNAI -- Thirteen new species of corals were discovered in the Gulf of Mannar's Marine National Park during a survey conducted by a research institute in Tuticorin.
The gulf has a unique bio-diversity and 117 species of coral already exist in this exclusive area. The environment ministry, however, lists just 96.
Conducted by the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI), the survey was supported by the union environment ministry, the Tuticorin Port Trust and a Sweden-based coral reef network NGO programme studying 'coral reef degradation in the Indian Ocean'.
The Tuticorin Port Authority, through a special vehicle mechanism, is in charge of executing the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project that is dredging and cutting through the reef dividing the gulf and the Bay of Bengal, off the Rameshwaram coast. The survey is a part of its environment assessment exercise in the area.
A 1998 study had said that over 90 of the shallow corals were killed on most Indian Ocean reefs due to high sea surface temperature.
The Gulf of Mannar park area is supposed to extend to 560 sq km, but the SDMRI team found live coral only in a 78 sq km area. Experts said that 20 years ago, the coral extended over 32 km more.
'The degradation happened because of destructive fishing and sewage disposal,' SDMRI director J.K. Patterson Edward told reporters Sunday. The Gulf of Mannar park itself has shrunk by 30 percent in the last two decades, experts said.
The survey mapped the geography of the live coral and found that only 21 islands (reefs) in the gulf had live coral currently. The survey and the findings are being seen as a baseline for determining the gulf's ecology.
'The coral composition of the Gulf of Mannar will change once the Bay of Bengal waters mix with it when the canal is cut,' environmentalist S. Badrinarayanan, a former director of the Geological Survey of India, told IANS Monday.
© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service