June 29, 2017

Indonesia’s 17,000 islands are among the richest in the Coral Triangle. Conservationist Drew Harvell plunged into some of its best Marine Protected Areas to check the health and vitality of Indonesian reefs and here’s what she found…

By: Drew Harvell

As I awoke to the sounds of the mullahs’ calls for morning prayer in Makassar, Sulawesi Island,  I pondered barriers being crossed in my research project: cultural, gender and even scientific. Our goal is to save the spectacular biodiversity of Indonesia’s seas, which is threatened by an unholy trinity of coastal pollution, climate change and habitat destruction. We are working on coral reefs, which are the most biodiverse marine habitats. And Indonesia, within the Coral Triangle, is the beating heart of that diversity.

There are roughly 590 species of reef-building coral in Indonesia, more than anywhere else on the planet. Compare that with about 67 species in the Caribbean. There are also almost 4,000 species of tropical fishes here, with 1,500 in the top-ranked region of West Papua. 

We are collaborating with Jamaluddin Jompa of Hasanuddin University on a measurement project financed by  the National Science Foundation and USAID. The focus is on improving the resilience of Indonesia’s reefs and associated habitats, like mangroves and sea grasses, to climate stress, while increasing their value by creating no-take fishing zones.

The tourism value of coral reefs is immense. Divers will pay top-dollar to swim alongside this cool coral cruiser – a Green Sea Turtle which can live over a century. Photo by Toppx2

Fishing pressure is so high in many locations that the only hope for the continuation of sustainable fishing is to create refuges where fish can breed and produce young that will spill over into other areas open to fishing. In the process, we have discovered that these no-fish zones also increase the health of the coral reefs in them. Scientists have shown that corals inside marine protected areas in the Philippines, Palau and Australia have fewer diseases. For example, black band disease, a pathogen that infects corals worldwide, is lower inside some marine protected areas than outside.

But coastal pollution is a big threat to all marine biodiversity, as well as to successful no-take preserves. That’s why my students, fellow faculty members and I have been sampling bacteria off the coast of several islands near Makassar. Waterborne diseases are carried into the ocean through human sewage, some that cause deadly coral diseases. Our goal is to investigate the twin problem of sewage pollution for human health and coral health, particularly inside marine protected areas. This focus on how human health is intertwined with wildlife and the health of the environment is called One Health.

 Ms. Drew Harvell is associate director for environment at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University who studies the health of coral reefs and marine ecosystems in Indonesia. Her story first appeared in the New York Times and on TheCoralTriangle.com.


  • Patrick Key says:

    Such a great article! Thanks, Drew. So interesting and useful info. These are some nice tips. You simply need to be challenged over and over to become really good.
    For example, it is necessary to convince that nature protection is a responsible task of all mankind. If you can convince it’s already a victory. I understood it on my essay times. But using the cheap essay writing service in that time was the only way to graduation

  • May your work truly inspire others, and make a difference. Plant those mangroves, and create those preserves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We've Updated Our Privacy Policy

Read our new privacy policy here.