Getting Closer with The Hidden Biodiversity in West Papua About Tropical Coral Reef

This Table Coral, Acropora hyacinthus, is surrounded by a vibrant, healthy reef community. Such scenes are still quite common in Raja Ampat, but sadly becoming rare in many parts of the world. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean

The hidden biodiversity of tropical coral reefs has a charming charm. You can find this in Raja Ampat, West Papua, a province in eastern Indonesia. Most of the wealth of tropical coral reefs is in this province with native endemics. If you are curious about the various hidden tropical coral reefs, here is the explanation.

Biodiversity of Coral Reefs in the Papuan Sea

The global diversity of coral reefs is estimated at 950,000 or ±40% of multicellular species. Meanwhile, only 10% of them have been identified. These figures show a large gap in providing knowledge about coral reef biodiversity and documentation on biodiversity in the Coral Triangle Area. Despite having the highest concentrations of coral reef species, much remains unknown.

One thing is for certain: this biodiversity can be found in the Coral Triangle area, located in the Central Indo-Pacific. In this area, the richness of new species can be found optimally. It is because the center of diversity remains contested, and knowledge of the distribution of coral reef banks continues to shift.

Improving the boundaries of the Coral Triangle may be important for the management of coral reef conservation policies. However, suppose the exact boundaries are less well known as the center of maximum biogeographic deep marine biodiversity in West Papua. In that case, it may be more appropriate to call it the more straightforward Indo-Australian Archipelago.

Coral Reefs As Habitat

Apart from a lack of taxonomic knowledge, species richness records can be attributed to various specific reasons. Many small living species are neglected, such as the Barrier Reef. It seems that the Raja Ampat area has more common coral species. Meanwhile, the Coral Triangle region has many species that were previously thought.

This new rock community of corals was recently discovered in the Indo-Pacific region. Some coral reef habitats are easy to overlook because of their small size. In addition, coral debris has also been reported to contain benthic communities that can become corals. It consists of unknown algae, bryozoans, sponges, polychaetes, and tunicates.

Many coral reef-dwelling species depend on corals for food, substrate, and shelter. There are many species associated with corals. Unfortunately, the role of the species is not always clear: they can become parasites by eating coral slime or predators that eat coral tissue. Not only that, they can live as commensals among coral tentacles or steal their food.

They can cause damage to host corals by significantly eroding their skeletons. But it doesn’t happen in all types of tropical corals of West Papua. Some are interdependent as species in the ocean. New interspecific associations have been discovered recently in their possible host roles involving shrimp, worms, and snails.

There are many associated with new species hiding under corals, such as snails and sessile ctenophores. In addition, there are many more optimal diversities in extracting and growing internal bones, such as bivalves, snails, and crabs. On the upper side are flatworms, shrimp, and copepods. At the same time, you can find other species among the tentacles, such as shrimp and fish.

Coral branches can offer optimal protection between their components. Even some fellow octocorals use camouflage as a hiding strategy, as shown like the seahorse. In short, coral reefs can be hospitable homes to many species in the sea depending on their structure, size, and space availability.

Conservation Areas in Papua

The location of coral reef biodiversity is in the Bird’s Head Sea or the heart of the World Coral Triangle. In other words, Raja Ampat is one of the locations with the highest amount of marine biodiversity on earth. Covering 4.6 million hectares of land and sea, a total of 2 million hectares are marine conservation areas in West Papua.

Meanwhile, this part of the archipelago is a natural habitat for more than 1,600 species of fish. Thus, about 75% of the world’s known coral species exist in the Raja Ampat area. This is proven by strong deep ocean currents to bring nutrients to the waters of Raja Ampat. Strong ocean currents flow in various directions, such as mangrove forests, saltwater lakes, and seagrass beds.

For this reason, it forms a complex food web that is a source of food for the vast diversity of marine life. Dubbed the center of species, Raja Ampat is the center of the world’s most influential biodiversity. Abundant coral reefs surround the islands in the Raja Ampat area. Thus, it becomes an essential source of nutrition for many species.

As previously mentioned, the coral reefs in Raja Ampat are a unique habitat for life and colors. The vibrant colors of soft and hard corals combine to form a habitat for various unique species. Schools of brightly colored reef fish and salmon milled nearby. While barracuda, tuna, snapper, and sharks swim with the stream in the marine waters of West Papua.

Due to its extraordinary and unique marine biodiversity, Raja Ampat should be a global priority for conservation. The hidden biodiversity of tropical coral reefs requires special attention to maintain its sustainability. Thus, the Raja Ampat marine conservation area authority seeks to protect biodiversity through management efforts that focus on sustainability.