‘ Dead’ coral rubble can support more animals than live coral, according to University of Queensland researchers trialling a state-of-the-art sampling approach.
UQ’s Dr Kenny Wolfe said that reef rubble environment was often overlooked as desolate, unattractive and ‘dead’, however reef debris was quite alive.
” When individuals consider reef they often consider larger invertebrates that are easily found, such as sea cucumbers, starfish and giant clams,” Dr Wolfe said.
” But remarkably, dead coral debris supports more of what we call ‘puzzling’ animals than live coral.
” Puzzling animals are simply hidden animals, that include tiny crabs, fishes, snails and worms– all of which conceal in the nooks and crannies of the reef to avoid predation.
” And similar to on land with little bugs and bugs, biodiversity in the sea can be controlled by these tiny invertebrates.”
As these creatures try to remain concealed, finding and surveying them needs particular care and attention.
Dr Wolfe teamed up with UQ Innovate to create 3D-printed coral stacks called RUBS (Debris Biodiversity Samplers), to survey puzzling animals on reef.
The 3D-printed ‘coral’ imitates the surrounding reef debris, flawlessly inviting concealed reef organisms to be unwittingly monitored.
” Every piece of coral or rubble is various,” Dr Wolfe stated.
” RUBS supply a uniform technique to survey the covert bulk on reef.
” By tasting the RUBS’ structures with time, the team had the ability to determine changes in the puzzling population, including pieces to the puzzle and filling out the unknowns of coral reef food webs.
” This information fills essential understanding gaps, such as how little puzzling animals support coral reefs from the bottom of the food chain, all the method as much as larger predators.”
Dr Wolfe thinks that the new method is another step in much better understanding our precious reefs– whether considered ‘alive’ or ‘dead’.
” We’re really pulling back the drape on simply how alive these ‘degraded’ reefs are,” he said.
” These are important environments, which support reef biodiversity and crucial food webs.
” This new innovation is a new chance for reef management, especially for reef education and awareness.
” We’re delighted to discover and commemorate the diversity of life in this misconstrued habitat.”
It was a cooperation in between UQ’s School of Biological Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Reef Research Studies.